SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

November 12, 2012

Owner: Furnace may be behind deadly Ind. blast

INDIANAPOLIS — The owner of one of the homes that exploded in Indianapolis said yesterday that a problem furnace could be to blame for the blast that killed two people and damaged dozens of homes so severely that officials say they must be demolished.

John Shirley, 50, of Noblesville, told The Associated Press that his daughter sent him a text message last week complaining that the furnace in the home where she lives with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend had gone out and required them to stay at hotel.

But Shirley also said when he asked if the furnace had been fixed, his daughter said yes, and he wasn’t aware of any additional problems until he heard from his daughter again Sunday morning.

“I get a text from my daughter saying ‘Dad, our home is gone. Then I called my ex-wife and she said what happened,” he said.

His ex-wife, Monserrate Shirley, declined to comment yesterday.

A spokeswoman for Citizens Energy gas company said the utility didn’t receive any reports about a faulty furnace at the home. But spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple also said the homeowner wouldn’t necessarily report such a problem to the gas company. And if the homeowner hired someone to fix the furnace, that person also wouldn’t need to tell the utility.

Investigators said they have not determined a cause for the Saturday night blast that sparked a massive fire, blew out windows, collapsed ceilings and shook homes up to three miles away. Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said the search for answers could take some time and investigators will treat the area as a crime scene until they rule out foul play.

Much of the investigation so far has focused on natural gas. A utility spokesman said workers have been inspecting mains in the neighborhood but have detected no leaks so far.

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