An apparent explosion Saturday just north of downtown injured a man and turned a house into a smoking, charred pile of rubble.
The blast destroyed the house at the corner of Bayer and Sallie avenues, shredded the side of the home next door and sent debris flying across the street. Fire crews are still at the scene.
Neighborhood resident Jason Baugher said he helped pull a man, who appeared to be the house's only occupant, to safety. Baugher, who lives on the next block, heard what he called a “massive boom” while he was sitting outside drinking a cup of coffee. He threw the cup down and ran towards the blast, followed by another man.
“I heard a voice saying, 'Help me, help me,'” said Baugher. He says he saw a man peeking out of the rubble who had been entirely blackened by the explosion except for the whites of his eyes.
Baugher said he and the other man who responded were able to pull the victim free and bring him to the porch of the house next door. He described the man as “badly burned.” Just a few minutes later, Baugher said, there was another blast that spread the flames further.
Baugher's cousin, China White, 21, said the injured man was her roommate and he was burned on 70 percent of his body.
"They think it's a gas line," said White, though the Fort Wayne Fire Department says no cause has been found. She said she and her roommates had heard a hissing sound the last couple of months but hadn't smelled anything. White was called at work about the explosion and arrived to see the smoldering ruins Saturday afternoon. Fellow roommate Justine Jost, 21, arrived later.
The injured man, an IPFW student, was staying at the home temporarily and planned to leave in August to complete his senior year at IU Bloomington, Jost said. She hadn't spent the night at home but said White had told her she had woken up to a smell and was going to light a candle to get rid of the odor, but didn't.
The idea of what might have happened affected White as neighbors hugged her.
"It's a good thing I didn't or we'd all be dead," White said. Friends had stayed the night but everyone but the injured man had left the house when the explosion occurred, she said.