House explosion's cause undetermined

Thursday, October 29, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Firefighters inspect what's left of Phyllis Evans' home.

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Cincinnati fire investigators continued to sift debris Wednesday to determine the cause of the explosion that leveled Phyllis Evans' Westwood home.

The blast threw the 76-year-old woman from her second-floor bedroom to her front yard Tuesday, the morning after neighbors complained about a natural-gas odor in the area. (STORY)

Phyllis Evans
Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. officials say the company did everything possible to check for a leak when an inspector responded to two complaints Monday night on Veazey Avenue.

"From what we knew at the time and the information we had, we thought there was a thorough check," spokeswoman Kathy Meinke said.

The inspector did not go inside Mrs. Evans' home, but there was no indication that's where the odor was coming from, and the inspector's equipment detected no leak in the area, Ms. Meinke said.

But Mrs. Evans' neighbors remained skeptical.

"I haven't cooked anything," said Christy Sabin, a next-door neighbor whose garage was destroyed in the blast. "Every time I turn the lights on, I'm afraid I'm going to go. I'm just paranoid."

Her husband, Tony Sabin, said neighbors are not convinced that the gas lines are safe. His family made one of the calls to CG&E Monday night to complain about the gas.

"Nobody knocked on our door," he said. "Nobody was lifting the storm lids in front of our house."

CG&E crews joined fire inspectors and insurance representatives at the blast site Wednesday. The gas meter is being inspected by CG&E. The water heater, furnace, gas dryer and gas stove are being tested at a private lab to determine whether there was a malfunction in any of the appliances, Cincinnati Fire Capt. Dan Rottmueller said.

It may be several weeks before lab results are back and a cause can be pinpointed, Capt. Rottmueller said.

Mrs. Evans was in fair condition Wednesday morning but downgraded to serious condition by the evening at University Hospital. She suffered burns on her arms and legs but no broken bones.

"She was in good spirits," said Wendy Popejoy, who works at the day care center at St. Peter & Paul United Church of Christ in Westwood. Friends from Mrs. Evans' exercise class visited her Wednesday.

"I can guarantee you members of this church will provide for that woman with meals and everything," Mrs. Popejoy said. "That's the way they are."

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