Upland, IN – The Grant County sheriff says a propane gas leak likely caused a fatal house explosion Wednesday night. The victim, 71 year old Jack L. Williams, was in the process of switching his heating system from gas to wood.

“That black box there. That was the stove,” said Mike Hughes, Williams’ brother-in-law.

Hughes says he doesn’t know what went wrong while Williams was switching his heating source between propane and this brand new wood oven, but he says he does know why he was trying.

“He’s 71 years old and on a fixed income,” Hughes said. “And he found that that was a little more economical way to heat the home out here.”

Upland fire chief Brian Holtzleiter says the damage was already done by the time firefighters arrived just after 10:00 Wednesday night. A day later, they helped the state fire marshal investigate what caused the leak and ignited the explosion. They also worked with heavy hearts. Williams was the brother of a firefighter and familiar to all.

“I knew the victim and have been in this house,” Hughes said. “And it’s just hard to even recognize, knowing the layout of the house, what it was.”

Though debris from the explosion spreads 40 to 50 feet from the home, firefighters say the sound of the explosion went much farther. It was heard at least six miles in all directions.

Mike Hughes says his wife was one of those who heard the explosion Wednesday night, and he says she’s still feeling the impact.

“It made her ears hurt,” Hughes said. “She knew it instantly that something terrible had happened, just not realizing that it was her own brother that had perished in the way he did.”