Neighbor killed in house explosion

2013-09-10T13:50:00Z 2013-09-12T12:55:04Z Neighbor killed in house explosionLauri Harvey Keagle and Elvia Malagon The Times
September 10, 2013 1:50 pm  • 

LOWELL | Inspectors searched rubble of a Lowell home Tuesday that exploded Monday night, killing a neighbor who apparently was investigating something suspicious.

Victor Strain, 43, of 102 East 181st Ave. in Lowell, was pronounced dead at 12:25 a.m. Tuesday at the scene of the explosion at 108 East 181st Ave., according to a spokesman for the Lake County coroner's office.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said Tuesday that investigators determined the source of the explosion was a propane tank on the property.

Patty McLane, of Avon, Ind., grew up in the house that exploded. On Tuesday, she stood on the front lawn where she played as a girl, which was littered with shards of wood and other debris.

McLane said she heard about the explosion first on social media, where raw videos and photos began appearing quickly after the blast.

"Word travels fast," she said.

McLane said Strain helped her family keep an eye on her father and his home after he recently moved into a nursing home.

"Our family is suffering a devastating material loss but the Strains are definitely suffering 100-fold," she said.

McLane said her brother was on the phone with Strain, who was checking on the house when it exploded.

"Vic had good reason to come over and check on the house," she said. "It looked suspicious in a way. He was trying to make sure the house was in good order."

McLane did not elaborate on the nature of the suspicious circumstances that led Strain to the home.

McLane, who described Strain as "a good guy," said she did not know Strain or his family well. People gathered at the Strain home declined comment on Tuesday.

McLane said her family lived in the home since the early 1980s. The Lake County Assessor's Office lists the home as being under the ownership of the Arthur B. Hardiman living trust.

Lowell Police said Tuesday the investigation was handed over to the Lake County Sheriff's Department and the office of the Indiana State Fire Marshal.

Buncich said authorities continue investigating the explosion and are looking for records related to the propane tank.

Lake County Assessor's office information on the property indicates the home was not served by natural gas. A propane tank could be seen intact on the property Tuesday.

Lowell Fire Chief Clint Gorball said his department was called out on an explosion call just after 7 p.m. Monday. By the time they arrived, the house had exploded. The home to the west was fully engulfed in flames.

By 10 p.m., the fire had been put out. No one was inside the second house that caught on fire, Gorball said.

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