Agencies probe deadly Columbia City warehouse explosion

Local News

COLUMBIA CITY, IN. (WANE) — One person was killed and several business were damaged when a warehouse exploded in Columbia City Saturday morning.

It was around 9 a.m. when police and fire crews were called to a building at 515 N. Line St. on a report of a building explosion. There, responders found a building fully engulfed in flames.

When WANE 15 arrived at the scene, black smoke filled the air that could be seen from a distance. Many Columbia City residents were watching the scene.

According to an Indiana State Police report, three adults were “in or around” the building when it exploded. Two were able to escape with minor injuries. A third – a man – was trapped inside, unable to be rescued “due to the size and nature” of the fire, state police said.

The man’s body was recovered 5 1/2 hours later when the fire was finally extinguished around 2:30 p.m.

State police said the primary cause of the explosion appeared to be a natural gas leak. The state Fire Marshal’s Office will investigate the fire and rule on the cause and manner.

The Whitley County Coroner’s Office and the state police will investigate the man’s death.

The victim has not yet been identified. That could take up to 10 days, WANE 15 learned. Autopsy results could take up to six weeks.

Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel told WANE 15 that the whole city felt the explosion.

Several cars in the parking lot were destroyed, the City Vision Center by the warehouse sustained damaged, and houses behind the warehouse were also damaged. No one in the houses were hurt.

Keith Enyeart, a resident whose house is behind the warehouse, told WANE 15 that his garage door was blown off and that some of his neighbor’s house’s windows were shattered.

“It sounded like a bomb and felt like an earthquake,” Enyeart said.

Whitley County Sheriff’s Department released a statement on their Facebook page around 10:15 a.m.:

It’s not yet clear what the building was used for and who owned it.

No other information about the fire or the investigation has been released. WANE 15 will continue to follow up on the incident.

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