Residents in blast-shaken subdivision want answers

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Photo -   Barry Chipman, right, poses for a portrait with his daughter Billie, 16, in front of their home in Indianapolis Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. The Chipman's home in the neighborhood where an explosion late Saturday evening killed two people, destroyed two homes and made dozens more uninhabitable. Damage to the home was limited to some drywall cracks and a dented garage door. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Barry Chipman, right, poses for a portrait with his daughter Billie, 16, in front of their home in Indianapolis Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. The Chipman's home in the neighborhood where an explosion late Saturday evening killed two people, destroyed two homes and made dozens more uninhabitable. Damage to the home was limited to some drywall cracks and a dented garage door. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When a house two blocks away exploded with a deafening boom, the staggering force knocked Billie Chipman to the floor. The freckled 16-year-old hasn't slept since.

"I was walking to the couch and I fell," she said Thursday. As clocks and pictures rained down off the walls late Saturday, "I put a blanket over my face and screamed."

The teen spends evenings in her room, dodging sleep and the nightmares that follow. Even in the November sunshine, her dark eyes remain haunted by the thought there might be another explosion.

Her father, Barry, said the neighborhood is growing impatient for answers about Saturday night's fiery blast, which killed two people and left the Richmond Hill subdivision strewn with debris and several homes in ruins.

"We want to know what the hell happened, so we can get back to normal," he said Thursday as he waited for city code enforcement officials to inspect his home.

Investigators believe the explosion was caused by natural gas, and they're focusing on gas appliances in the homes in the center of the blast zone.

Fire Capt. Rita Burris said investigators, who have been laboring through the night under spotlights, hope to wrap up their work at the scene by the end of the week, although they aren't putting a timeline on determining what caused the blast.

Burris said repairs or demolition can't begin until the investigators finish their work at the scene.

"Until they say jump, nobody else can do anything," she said.

Engineers or insurance adjusters have assessed most of the homes damaged in the explosion, with the exception of about a dozen that require structural bracing and another 11 near the core of the explosion, of which little remains.

City code enforcement official Adam Collins said his agency hopes to have homes braced by Monday so their residents can return with insurance adjusters to assess damage and determine what's next.

Most residents, even those with heavily damaged homes, have been allowed inside on a careful, limited basis to retrieve necessities, such as toiletries and credit cards, Collins said.

Some, like Chipman, never left. He said a police officer who lives nearby advised him to leave in case there was another explosion, and many neighbors did. But many didn't, Chipman said.

"More people stayed than anybody realized," he said.

Chipman is quick to say he is one of the lucky ones. His home's damage was limited to a dented garage door and a couple of holes — including a hole in the ceiling of the room he's set up as a shrine to former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight.

Other residents weren't so lucky.

Tony Burnett, a 49-year-old electronics engineer who lives across the street from the blast zone, said part of his home was twisted off its foundation and one of his three cars was declared totaled by an insurance claims adjuster. The others haven't been inspected.

"The cars are still there, where we'd parked them. We're not allowed to move them," Burnett said.

On Thursday, the Marion County coroner's office said it used dental records to positively identify the two people killed in the explosion: 36-year-old Jennifer Longworth and her 34-year-old husband, John Dion Longworth.

The cause of their deaths has not been determined, but they had been presumed dead, as their home was destroyed in Saturday's explosion.

Jennifer Longworth taught second grade at Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood, just south of Indianapolis. Her husband was the director of product development and technology for tech company Indy Audio Labs.

Funeral services are scheduled for Monday at St. Barnabas Catholic Church — the Indianapolis church where they were married 11 years ago.

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