Lake of The Four Seasons, IN – Arthur Simon Jr., burned in the explosion, had smelled natural gas for days

BY KEN KOSKY, Times Staff Writer -Arthur Simon Jr. flipped on a light switch at his home Tuesday night, sparking a natural gas explosion that badly injured him and blew out the walls of his home.

The 53-year-old resident of Broadacre Road in Lakes of the Four Seasons was rushed to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., for treatment of burns. He remained hospitalized in serious condition Wednesday. Fire officials said his dog also survived.

Porter County police said Simon and his wife had been smelling natural gas inside their home for several days. Simon told emergency responders he fell asleep on the sofa Monday night and woke up shortly after 10 p.m. to find the house dark.

He told the responders he got up and flipped the light switch, and the house exploded. The explosion caused all the exterior walls to be bowed or blown out. A small flash fire also occurred.

Police spoke via telephone to Simon’s wife, who was shopping in Chicago at the time. She said they had been smelling gas for a few days, so their son, Arthur Simon III, checked the gas valve under the stove. The son told police his parents had been having problems with the gas line to the stove, and he put a plug in one of the valves several days ago. He told police his parents still were complaining about the gas smell and had been leaving the windows open to air out the smell.

An investigation by Lakes of the Four Seasons firefighters, Porter County Fire Investigation Strike Team and the state Fire Marshal’s Office showed it was an “accidental fire” caused by a gas leak, said FIST Director Jim Branham. He said there were several leaks in the natural gas piping, but those could have resulted from the explosion.

The ranch home, valued at $350,000 to $400,000 is believed to be a total loss, fire officials said.

The home explosion comes just two weeks after a close call at another Porter County home. Debbie Goodrich of Washington Township had been smelling natural gas at her home for a couple days, but didn’t realize the gas had built up to potentially dangerous levels. A UPS man delivering a package told her how strong the smell was, and responding firefighters told her the home could have exploded.