Morgan County, IN- Firefighters think propane tank was source of explosion

By R. Joseph Gelarden —

Fire officials and family members are calling Courtney Fredrick a hero after she found her way into a burning structure in rural Morgan County on Thursday to save her daughter.

Fredrick, two other adults and two small children were in critical condition Thursday in the burn unit of Wishard Memorial Hospital after an explosion that shredded their rural Morgan County home.

Along with Courtney Fredrick, victims were her husband, Steve; their daughter, Sierra, 3; Courtney’s cousin Sam Davis, 3; and her uncle, Lonnie Kindle, 42.

Wishard officials said the five were in critical but stable condition with second- and third-degree burns covering 20 percent to 70 percent of their bodies.

Dr. Adam Cohen, the physician in charge of the Wishard burn team, said the prognosis for all five patients is very good because they did not have inhalation injuries.

The two children have been transferred to Riley Hospital for Children.

The explosion occurred just after 7 a.m. Thursday.

The Fredrick family — living in an apartment that was attached to the side of a barn — was “horse sitting” while the barn’s owner, Courtney Fredrick’s grandparents, Bill and Betty Kindle, are on a Caribbean cruise to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Despite being burned, Courtney Fredrick went back into the blazing structure to rescue Sierra.

“She is most definitely a hero,” said Robert J. Downey, Morgan County sheriff’s chief deputy.

The explosion rocked the nearby home of Chet and Linda Kindle.

“The whole house shook. I first thought a plane crashed,” said Linda Kindle.

Chet Kindle, Lonnie’s brother and Bill and Betty’s son, said he raced around to the barn and found it in flames.

Sheet metal was crumpled like spaghetti, peppered with flames and smoke. Insulation was hanging from the tops of nearby trees.

By the time Chet reached the barn, most of the residents were already outside.

“They were out and walking around,” said Chet, who described their conditions as resembling bad sunburns.

When he looked around, he noticed that Sierra was missing.

“I tried to get in the front door, but there was a refrigerator blocking the door. I couldn’t get in a window. Then somehow Courtney got in the back door and found her daughter.

“She handed her out the window to me,” he said.

Investigators from the Indiana state fire marshal’s office are investigating the blast, although Gregg Township volunteer firefighters said the most likely cause was a propane tank attached to the residence.

“They are still checking, but there is no indication it is anything but an accident,” Downey said.

Authorities said about a half-dozen horses got out of the barn safely.

The fire continued to burn for several hours after the explosion. Firefighters monitored the blaze from a safe distance after they observed several small explosions in the rubble.