One dead as explosion destroys Lowell house

2013-09-10T08:37:00Z 2013-09-10T09:44:07Z One dead as explosion destroys Lowell houseElvia Malagon elvia.malagon@nwi.com, (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com
September 10, 2013 8:37 am  • 

Debris is all that remains of a former house in the 100 block of East 181st Avenue in Lowell after an explosion leveled the structure and damaged a nearby home, Lowell officials said.

One man was found dead at the scene of the explosion, Lake County Coroner's office confirmed early Tuesday. His identity, cause and manner of death have yet to be released.

Lowell police early Tuesday said the investigation has been handed over to the Lake County Sheriff's Department and the office of the Indiana State Fire Marshal.

Neither agency released new details Tuesday morning.

Lowell Fire Chief Clint Gorball said Monday night a Lowell firefighter suffered a knee injury. Another firefighter may have been injured late Monday.

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 and debris could be seen as far as 75 yards south of where a house once stood. A nearby house 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. Gorball said a neighbor who was house-sitting when the explosion happened was unable to be located late Monday night.

It was unclear Tuesday morning if the missing person was the person found dead at the scene.

The two houses were relatively near each other, and no other structures were damaged.

Gorball said officials were investigating the cause and type of explosion that damaged the house. Firefighters walked with flashlights around the scattered debris of the lot where the house once stood late Monday. Debris could be seen in a corn field across from the house.

Officials closed the 100 block of East 181st Street, and nearby residents stopped to ask about the whereabouts of family members and friends who live on the block.

Justin Kralek, 22, of Lowell, said he and his friend were at McDonald's in town when they heard "just a big boom." They walked closer to the scene of the explosion to see if anyone they knew was injured.

Kralek said he saw one house engulfed in flames and the other one was gone by the time he arrived.

Gorball said the surrounding residents had evacuated by the time officials arrived.

About 12 surrounding agencies assisted the Lowell Fire Department.

-- Times Staff Writer Lauri Harvey Keagle contributed to this report.

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