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58-Year-Old Woman Killed in Kettering House Explosion

Kettering House Explosion

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a home explosion in Kettering, Ohio, which left a woman dead and a house destroyed. The blast, which officials say may have been caused by a natural gas leak, follows a fatal Madison Township home explosion approximately one month prior, as well as an April explosion in another Kettering home that resulted in injuries and evacuations. Such explosions have been known to cause fatal structural fires with devastating consequences for the building’s occupants.

Ohio Home Explosion Happened in Early Morning

It was the sound that alerted neighbors to the explosion in the morning hours of Tuesday, December 5, 2017. A boom around 4:30 a.m. was loud enough to wake up residents of North Claridge Drive and flood the Kettering Emergency Dispatch Center with calls. The details of what exactly caused the noise, however, took neighbors longer to deduce, and one resident described the realization of what had happened as they spoke to emergency personnel.

“Oh my God. I can see it a little better now. I think the house has collapsed,” a 9-1-1 caller detailed in an emergency call. “There was an explosion. There’s stuff in the yard.”

The home that exploded and collapsed was in the 400 block of North Claridge Drive, by Indian Hills Drive. Kettering Police and firefighters were quick to respond to the scene, but upon arrival discovered that the home was already completely engulfed in flames, some stretching an estimated 30 to 50 feet in the sky. A cruiser camera inside one of the police patrol cars that responded to the scene captured video of the fire — a massive ball of flame in the residential neighborhood.

The blast scattered house debris, with the garage door thrown nearly 100 feet from the house and a screen door farther from that. Intense heat from the blaze was enough to damage nearby homes, though details on the extent of the damage have not been given, and two homes were evacuated immediately following the explosion.

Aerial images of the home site the next day show only charred remains and debris nearly battered beyond recognition, with the house destroyed by the explosion.

Victim Thrown from House into Neighbor’s Yard on Claridge Drive

The sole resident in the house at the time of the explosion was 58-year-old Darlene Baumgardner. She was thrown from the home in the blast and landed in a neighbor’s yard, though investigators are still looking into details of how far the fire propelled her.

“I’m going to guess something around 15-20 feet,” Chief Tom Butts of the Kettering Fire Department said in a statement. “We are still investigating how far that was.”

Baumgardner was taken to Kettering Hospital in critical condition, but suffered fatal injuries. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office performed an autopsy on Baumgardner and determined that she had sustained thermal injuries and experienced multiple blunt-force traumas because of the explosion. Those factors were attributed as the cause of death.

Investigation of Structure Fire Likely to Take Months, Involve Many Elements

Officials have not given a cause for the Kettering house explosion, and it will almost certainly be months before they announce one. A lengthy investigation will involve multiple parties, including the victim’s family, the home insurance company, and utilities, among others. Once those parties are identified, a hands-on investigation at the home site will begin, with all parties present to ensure that evidence is made available to everyone.

Despite collapsing in the explosion, the home is still expected to hold many clues as to what happened. Kettering fire officials, however, said at the scene that they believe natural gas to be the culprit, though confirmation would require a full investigation.

“It sure seems like it could have been fed by natural gas of some sort,” Butts commented. “Just because of the explosion and the debris field.”

Vectren provides natural gas to the neighborhood—as well as to approximately one million residential and business customers in Ohio—and said their preliminary investigation into the Kettering house explosion revealed no issues with their service at that house or nearby houses. The utility company did shut off natural gas in the area to help firefighters extinguish the blaze.

One Killed in Madison Township Explosion a Month Before Kettering House Explosion

Just a day shy of one month before the explosion in Kettering, a man and woman were thrown from their home in nearby Madison Township, Ohio in a similar explosion. The woman died.

Columbia Gas, not Vectren, is the natural gas provider in that area, and the utility company admitted it was a “gas-related incident” though the investigation is ongoing. State investigators completed a preliminary investigation that determined the cause of the Madison Township explosion was a natural gas leak from an unknown location.

Residents of the neighborhood reported smelling gas in the area on multiple occasions leading up to the explosion.

A Prior Kettering House Explosion in March Displaced Residents

Earlier this year, on March 28, 2017, a separate house explosion rocked the Kettering area. That incident occurred not far from the most recent explosion, in the 400 block of Pamela Sue Drive.

The explosion happened just before midnight, at approximately 11:40 a.m., and the four family members and one dog inside the home were evacuated. One of the family members suffered major injuries, and two others suffered minor injuries in the explosion.

Neighbors heard the explosion, similar to the recent Kettering house explosion, and called 9-1-1, but this time one of the callers was also an occupant of the house. Emergency personnel asked her what her emergency was, to which the woman responded, “I don’t know, my house just exploded.”

First responders found the fire extinguished, but visible and significant damage to the home. They also said there was a strong natural gas smell in the area. Reports following the incident said that a natural gas leak was the cause, and Vectren gave a statement that they could provide no information due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, but that they would be “complying with all requests that are part of the investigation.”


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