3 hurt in Newport home explosion

The home after the explosion
The home after the explosion
Google map shows the home before the explosion
Google map shows the home before the explosion

Fire officials have ruled out arson as the cause of the explosion that leveled a home in Newport.

Captain Gary Auffart with the Newport Fire Department confirmed that officials ruled out arson Friday afternoon following an investigation. He says findings are consistent with a natural gas leak. Duke Energy workers are cooperating with the investigation. The insurance company will now have the opportunity to conduct their own investigation.

The explosion happened early Friday morning at 1600 Waterworks Road.

Newport Fire and EMS Captain Patrick Krogman says when firefighters arrived the home was already leveled. He says there was a delay putting the fire out because it was gas-fed so they had to shut off the gas first and also deal with downed electrical lines.

Family members living in the home were injured. They have been identified as Ida Neal, her husband, Paul Neal, and son, Dwayne Luttrell. Ida Neal and Luttrell were taken to UC Medical Center with serious burns. At last check, Luttrell was in critical condition and Neal was in fair condition. Paul Neal suffered minor injuries.

"I was going in bed and I heard a boom and I thought one of my kids fell out of bed. I ran upstairs to check on them and I looked out the window and there was a small fire across the way," neighbor Jeffrey Ebding said. "So I threw my shoes on and ran outside, ran to the building and some lady was screaming her son's name."

Ebding says he did not think it was possible the son made it out alive. He says he and another man grabbed the man and pulled him away from the house.

"[The] guy seemed OK," Ebding said. "He was talking, he just seemed like he was in shock and I was just so happy to see he wasn't gone, because the lady was in tears, she thought her son died."

There is still a battle ahead, however.

"They more or less told us [he has a] 50/50 chance," Ida's brother Harry Sullivan said. "He has 75 percent burns all through his body."

Loss is something all too fresh for Ida Neal and her family. Their other son Tommy Luttrell passed away just two months ago at the age of 29.

"He died of cancer and now she just lost everything she had, you know, in one big explosion," Sullivan said.

Sullivan says Ida's husband Paul may have a broken back and that doctors have put him in a neck brace. He says both of the family's dogs died in the blast. Neighbors say Ida suffered burns on her arms from the explosion.

Sullivan says Paul was up getting ready for work and reached for his coat when he says the ceiling collapsed.

Fire officials say they may never know what sparked the blast.

At least three different departments responded. The home is a total loss.

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