Evansville house explosion victims died of trauma, asphyxia

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Preliminary autopsy results released Monday for the three victims of a house explosion in a southern Indiana neighborhood show they died of blunt force trauma and compression asphyxia.

A married couple who lived at the center of the Wednesday explosion in Evansville, 43-year-old Charles Hite and 37-year-old Martina Hite, both died of blunt force trauma to their chests, and 29-year-old neighbor Jessica Teague died of compression asphyxia, the Vanderburgh County Coroner’s Office said in a news release.

Final autopsy reports and toxicology are pending, Chief Deputy Coroner David Anson said in the news release.

The explosion injured a fourth person and damaged 39 homes, leaving 11 uninhabitable, authorities have said.

A statement Monday by the Evansville Fire Department said the investigation is still in its early stages and likely will be lengthy.

“The very slow methodical process of the investigation started this morning,” EFD Division Chief Mike Larson said in the release. “The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office is leading this investigation and the Evansville Fire Department is assisting. Several Insurance investigators have been in town and the Evansville Police Department is assisting with interviews as they are needed, along with site security,”

Suzanne Dabkowski, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said last week thast the agency can’t speak to any possible causes of the explosion. Dabkowski said the ATF has explosive specialists and firearms investigators on-site in Evansville who were helping with the investigation.

Evansville authorities have declined to speculate whether natural gas or another issue is responsible for the explosion. The blast left debris that included wooden boards, window glass and insulation strewn over a 100-foot radius.

CenterPoint Energy, the local gas utility, has said it was working with fire officials and other agencies as the investigation continues.

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