ALEXANDRIA, Ind. – A crash led to widespread natural gas outages in the Madison County community of Alexandria, and police believe alcohol played a role.
The crash happened Thursday night near the west side of Alexandria in the 1200 block of W. Washington St. after a car hit a high-pressure gas line, sparking a large fire. According to Vectren, the car hit a regulator station, releasing about 240 lbs. of natural gas. That's why the flames were so visible.
Crews shut off the gas to the area and evacuated homes within a half-mile radius as a safety precaution. Several residents were sent to a shelter in downtown Alexandria until it was deemed safe to return.
The flames shot an estimated 40 feet in the air during the height of the fire.
Police say there were four people in the vehicle. The driver, 25-year-old Cody Wayne Vaughn, was taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis and treated for burns, a fractured scapula and a collapsed lung. The passenger, 25-year-old Anna Dee Vaughn, was also taken to Methodist and treated for a broken hip.
Two children, ages 2 and 4, were taken to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and treated for head injuries.
Investigators in Madison County said Cody Vaughn was driving on a suspended license and believe alcohol played a factor in the crash. He has previous convictions for operating while intoxicated, police said.
Crews from local utilities and several local police and fire agencies responded. Vectren crews went door-to-door overnight to turn off individual gas meters to about 100 homes. Those homes remain without natural gas as crews work to make repairs. Vectren hoped to have the regulator station fixed by the end of Friday. Once it's repaired, crews will have to go house-to-house to switch customers back on.
Neighbors were allowed to return to their homes around 4 a.m. Friday. Those returning to the neighborhood described a chaotic scene.
“We heard a car downshift and start racing down the road. And then we heard tires squeal on tracks, and we walked outside and heard a boom and saw fire shooting straight up in the sky,” said Tanya Berry.
"(We were) freaking out, what do we do? Panic attack. My children were screaming, and we were freaking out. Everybody in the neighborhood was," she said.
“It was horrible. I thought the car had blown up instead of whatever it did. I thought the car had blown up. If I knew that it hadn’t. It didn’t, and I saw the cop pull children out. It took about 10 minutes to get here. I would have run down there. I felt so bad. That’s all I’ve been talking about all night.”
While the electricity was back on at the homes, there was no heat.
Madison County Emergency Management sent the following statement about the situation:
The natural gas line has been shut down and the natural gas purged from the line near the incident in Alexandria, IN. Vectren Gas officials will begin looking at the damage to develop a plan for repairs.
Vectren Gas officials must go to 97 homes (customers) in the immediate area and turn off each individual gas meter. Some gas meters may be located inside homes. This measure is for safety of the repair crews.
Alexandria Incident Commander declared the fire is out, as of 1:40AM Friday morning.