LA- Investigators have determined that the blast at a home here that killed three Thursday was a gas explosion, police said.
None of the three bodies has been positively identified by the coroner’s office, but law enforcement officials were able to release their identification with assistance from surviving members of the Churchman family.
Killed were Mary Churchman, 89, her son Dave Churchman, 63, and his wife Sheila Churchman, 61, said Grant sheriff’s spokesman Preston Mosley.
Dave and Sheila’s son, Donald Churchman, and his wife, Narmena, were hurt in the blast. Narmena Churchman was released from Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital, while Donald was in stable condition at LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, Mosley said. His injuries don’t appear to be life-threatening.
On Friday morning, family, friends and community members were digging through the pile of rubble all that was left of the nearly 1,500-square foot brick home looking for items that could be saved.
One woman who declined to give her identity, only saying she was family teetered atop a pile of wood, digging out a book. She walked to a nearby vehicle, arms full of items saved from the debris glass bottles, a few tattered cook books and an ice cream scoop.
Even though investigators still don’t know the origin of the gas, they have determined no foul play was involved. The site of the explosion has been released back to the family to begin the clean-up process, and investigators are hopeful to determine the source of the gas through further investigation.
Neighbors reported “smelling an odor” around the house for the past few days, Mosley said. Another neighbor, who said she didn’t smell the gas, saw the explosion.
Dorothy Jones, who lives two houses down from the Churchmans, said she was looking out the window when she saw a bolt of lightning hit a tree next to the house. Moments later, Jones heard the explosion and saw the house lift and come crashing down into pieces of rubble.
Other neighbors talked about running to the scene immediately after hearing the explosion, which was strong enough to shatter windows and knock down pictures at nearby homes. Sheila, Donald and Narmena Churchman were pulled from the scene. Rescue workers and the Grant Parish Coroner’s office removed two bodies from the rubble that morning. But coroner Dean Nugent said a positive identification of the deceased won’t be made until today or later.