Families search for help, normalcy after house explosion put 3 in hospital

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INDIANAPOLIS — Two Indianapolis families are dealing with a lot of unknowns after their family home of more than 20 years exploded last week. 

Penny Hermsmen, Zack Long and Ari McCreery were all inside the house on the 500 block of Rybolt Avenue Friday morning when a gas leak caused an explosion. Somehow, they all survived.

”It’s a total miracle, there are no other words to describe it,” said David Hermsmen, Penny Hermsmen’s son.

David, Penny Jo Hermsmen and Joshua Long are now all working to help and raise money for their family members. Penny is their mother, Zack is their younger brother and Ari is Zack’s girlfriend.

”We’re just thankful everyone made it out and we’re just trying to move forward,” said Joshua Long

All three were injured in the explosion. Penny has significant burns and just had spine surgery on Sunday. She also had a skin graft on Monday and will have another skin graft on Friday. They said she is expected to make a full recovery.

Ari McCreery is also still in the hospital. She has a collapsed lung and is also dealing with burns. Joshua said she is regaining her strength on a ventilator right now.

Zack Long has burns on his hands but was released from the hospital.

Joshua said five of the family pets were also killed in the explosion with several more being injured.

Even with the losses and injuries, the family members all consider themselves lucky.

”It could have ended very, very badly. A lot worse than it was,” said David Hermsmen.

A spokesperson for the Wayne Township Fire Department said the cause of the explosion was a damaged gas line below the family’s fire pit.

”It was a freak accident,” said David Hermsmen.

Joshua Long said the family had the fire pit for years but was recently fixing it up and making it a little deeper when the line must have been hit. Joshua said gas got into the house and then on Friday morning the explosion happened. They credit their little brother Zack for saving everyone.

”He was in the bathroom when it happened and basically he lit a cigarette and it exploded,” said David Hermsen. “He said he got tunnel vision and at that point he went into survival mode and did what he had to do and for that we commend him because if he wouldn’t have done that we wouldn’t have our mom today.”

Long said during the explosion Penny was thrown out of the house and then an exterior wall fell on her. It was Zack who dragged her to safety.

Now, they’re trying to do what they can to help Penny, Zack and Ari as they recover.

”We’ve got some of the bare necessities just to get some normalcy back for the ones that don’t have a home anymore because those little things make a big difference,” Joshua said.

Unfortunately, Joshua said the home was not insured, so they will be looking to move on from the property. David said it had been in their family for more than 20 years.

”We’ve had family gatherings here, graduations, Christmas,” David said. “There’s a lot of memories here so the main thing is we want to make sure we can make some new memories and make some progress through this.”

The Hermsmen and Long family have a GoFundMe set up and the McCreery family has one as well. Funds will go toward hospital bills and helping them find a new home as winter approaches.

They said they know this will not be a short experience and just look forward to when they are all back together.

”I can’t tell you what I would do to hear my mom say, ‘I love you, baby’ right now,” said David. “I know she’s going to get to that.”

The family is also hoping their story is a warning to everyone about the consequences of not calling 811 before you dig anywhere.

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