Porter house explosion, fire injures 7 people, including 3-year-old girl; neighbor describes rescue

Cause of explosion and fire still under investigation

Jessica D'Onofrio Image
Friday, September 11, 2020
'I don't know why we're still here': Homeowner returns to site of Porter house explosion
A house explosion and fire in Porter, Indiana, left seven people injured Thursday afternoon according to the Porter Fire Department chief.

PORTER, Ind. (WLS) -- A massive explosion leveled a home in Porter, Indiana and injured seven people, including a little girl Thursday evening.

The homeowner said he is in disbelief but fortunate his whole family survived the blast. Investigators returned to the scene Friday to continue their search for the cause of the explosion and ensuing fire.

Jason Boomsma returned to his home Friday morning.

A massive explosion leveled a house in Northwest Indiana, injuring seven people, including a little girl.

"I don't know how. I don't know if it's upstairs, luck," he said as he looked at what was left of his home.

Boomsma said Thursday afternoon, his daughter said she smelled gas so he went to check on the old stove ranges he had recently removed.

"So I went to where we had the ranges removed and I pulled on the pipe to see if it was tight and I checked the valve, and when I dropped the wrench to the floor the house just blew," he described.

Boomsma said he flew into the air and hit the ceiling. Six other family members were trapped in the fiery rubble, including his 3-year-old granddaughter Ellie.

The Porter Indiana Fire Department said it received the call late Thursday afternoon after neighbors reported hearing an explosion in the 400-block of North 1st Street.

When firefighters arrived, a rescue effort was already underway to free the 3-year-old girl.

"We had several bystanders in law enforcement that had shown up, and through collective effort of all of them, they were able to find the 3-year-old and get her out into an awaiting ambulance," Porter Fire Chief Jay Craig Jr. said.

Neighbor Randy Ragon said he felt his home shake form the explosion and ran to help.

Ragon, a former Marine, said he saw people helping a woman out of the house and she was screaming "the baby, the baby!"

Ragon said he ran back in and could hear the girl crying.

"I busted through a wall, dug through a bunch of debris, found her and pulled a door up off of her," Ragon said. "Her leg was trapped under a two-by-four and I couldn't hold the door up and pull the two-by-four off of her, so I started yelling as hard as I could. Finally, someone heard me, a police officer. He ran in and got the two-by-four off the child, got her out. Then he came back and helped me out because I was in a bad spot there with the door."

Ragon then helped carry out another woman, he said.

That little girl was airlifted to Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago. Her father said she has broken bones all over her body but is expected to be OK.

Ellie's mother and grandmother were also injured in the explosion, but are also expected to recover. Boomsma and three other family members were able to make it out with just minor cuts, which he says was possible with the help of several neighbors and first responders who came to the rescue.

"It was an amazing collaborative effort between bystanders and emergency responders. When I arrived on scene, there were 15 to 20 people," said Chief Craig. "They were lifting up sections of the roof in the back of the house trying to search under that."

Officials said the flames were so intense, extra water had to be brought in.

"I don't know why we're still here," said Boomsma, as he tries to understand what happened.

The home is said to be a total loss, according to the Indiana Fire Marshal.

The cause of the explosion is still being investigated. NIPSO said gas service has been turned off in the area as a precaution.