Firefighters battle the flames from the burning debris at a house explosion at 9958 N. Co. Rd. 200 E. yesterday morning. The homeowner, Tom Miller, was at home at the time of the explosion. He was taken by Air Evac to Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis for burn injuries.
Emergency personnel responded to numerous 911 calls reporting a house explosion in the Harmony area Thursday morning at 10:13 a.m. The explosion, which was felt more than a mile away, leveled the house at 9958 N. County Road 200 E., blowing windows out of the surrounding homes, buckling the north wall of the home to the south and damaging several vehicles parked close by.
When rescue personnel arrived they were told by neighbors gathered at the scene that the homeowner was probably trapped inside.
Following the muffled sounds of a man calling for help, rescuers were able to get through the intense heat from the fire to remove debris and extract the homeowner, Tom Miller, from the crawl space of the house.
It's a little unclear at this time how Miller got in the crawl space area. He was either working in the area or was pushed through the floor into the area during the blast. Officials have said the location saved his life.
Miller, who sustained severe burn injuries, was conscious and able to talk briefly with his rescuers about the explosion. He reported having "flipped a switch" and his home "just exploded" before he was transported to St. Vincent Clay Hospital, and then to Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis.
Members of the Van Buren, Center Point, Jackson and Poland Volunteer Fire Departments, along with members of the Brazil City Fire Department, were dispatched to the scene. Fighting the intense heat, the firefighters battled the flames from the debris while trying to put out a carport fire and save the residence located just south of the explosion.
Debris from the house was scattered around the neighborhood and blown up 20-30 feet into the treetops.
Miller's front door and shattered window glass was laying across the street in the front yard of Geneva King's home, which had its windows blown out from the explosion.
Members of the Clay County Sheriff's Department, Indiana State Police, Search and Rescue and Brazil City Police worked to maintain the safety of the residents gathered around to check on the condition of their neighbor.
"Mr. Miller is such a kind man," a visibly shaken woman said at the scene."I just thank God he's alive."
The crowd cringed each time the downed power lines arched and sparks flew because of the water.
As Cinergy personnel worked to shut off the power, the crowd was ordered to back away due to a possible gas leak. The gas meter had blown free from the house in the explosion. Personnel from Vectron quickly shut off the gas main. No other customers should be affected because of the explosion.
A representative of the Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office was on the scene within an hour.
A section of C.R. 200E is closed today.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Superintendent William Schad has announced that next Friday, Sept. 16, will be "Tom Miller Day" throughout the school corporation and that the students and staff members of the schools are encouraged to collect donations on Miller's behalf.
"There wasn't a piece of wood left standing where his house used to be," Schad said. He was at the site within minutes to check on the condition of the bus driver for the Clay Community School Corporation, and urges the community to pray for Miller. "There was nothing left. It's a miracle he's alive."
Director of Transportation Frank Misner, who was also at the site, confirmed at the school board meeting last night that Miller was at Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis.
"His daughter called me about 30 minutes before the start of the meeting to let me know how he's doing," he said. "He's heavily sedated because of his injuries. About 35 percent of his body from the waist up has third degree burns, especially to his hands and face."
The family is planning to move Miller to the Cincinnati Burn Center so he can be close to family during his recovery, which could take months before he's able to return home.
"But there's no home to return to," Misner told the school board members and the audience. "The only two things he knows for certain he has are his keys and his wallet, which were in his pocket when he arrived at the emergency room at the hospital."
Donations can be made on Tom Miller's behalf at any of the schools in the county, dropped off at the Transportation Office in person or mailed to: "Tom Miller Day" c/o the Transportation Office, 212 N. Colfax St., Brazil, Ind. 47834
For more information, please call the Transportation Office at 442-7121.