2 Kettering home explosions leave residents asking about safety

Two Kettering homes separated by 2.2 miles exploded eight months apart, leaving one woman dead, two houses demolished and city residents wondering if they should be worried.

The source of the blast early Tuesday morning that destroyed a North Claridge Drive home and killed the resident, 58-year-old Darlene Baumgardner, is believed to have come from inside the home, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, which is the lead investigator on the incident.

“At this point, our investigators believe the explosion originated within the home. However, the exact source of the explosion still hasn’t been determined,” said State Fire Marshal Spokeswoman Kelly Stincer.

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Scott Bennett, an expert hired to investigate the incident, and Kettering Fire Chief Tom Butts have said the explosion and subsequent fire that destroyed the home appear to be related to a natural gas leak.

Investigators still haven’t officially determined what caused an explosion March 28 in the 400 block of Pamela Sue Drive, but first responders noted strong natural gas odors upon their arrival then.

The two explosions in the same city in the same year has created worry for some. Kettering spokeswoman Stacy Schweikhart said the city has received questions from residents who asked if they should be concerned.

“We encourage residents who have concerns about the safety of their gas supply lines to contact Vectren directly,” Schweikhart said.

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Homes shaken

Shortly after 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, residents who live near the 400 block of North Claridge were awakened by a loud boom that shook their homes. Those who called 911 said a nearby home had exploded. Baumgardner was found in critical condition in a neighbor’s yard when crews arrived, according to Kettering fire officials.

Baumgardner succumbed to multiple blunt-force trauma and thermal injuries a short time later, according to the coroner’s office.

Though the potential natural gas leak that may be linked to the explosion does not appear to involve its infrastructure, Vectren will continue to be involved in what is expected to be a lengthy investigation into the North Claridge Drive incident, said spokeswoman Natalie Hedde.

“After all preliminary field investigation work that was done, the incident is described as being on non-jurisdictional piping, which means it was outside of Vectren’s natural gas facilities,” Hedde said.

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Vectren provides training for natural gas safety to first-responders and contractors and offers several resources on their website.

“We certainly take natural gas safety very seriously,” Hedde said.

Results inconclusive

This news organization requested the release of the incident and investigative reports on the house explosion that happened in March on Pamela Sue Drive.

Kettering Fire’s investigation determined the exact cause of that explosion as inconclusive, Schweikhart said.

The full investigative report had not been released before the filing of this story.

According to Kettering’s incident report, three people were inside the Pamela Sue Drive home when it exploded shortly after 11:30 p.m.

The occupants were able to get out of the house, including a 4-month-old infant. Kettering fire reports one person was seriously injured, and the first to be taken to the hospital was a 28-year-old woman. The infant and the homeowner, 53-year-old Joan Wysong, were taken to the hospital about 12 minutes later, according to the report.

Kettering fire reports that crews encountered a heavy smell of natural gas at the scene and damage on all sides of the home, but no fire. 

Multiple entities were called to the scene, including Vectren, Dayton Power and Light, the water department and a building inspector.

The home was deemed a total loss, estimated at $160,000, and loss of contents was estimated at $10,000, according to the report.

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