LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Firefighters say it's like nothing they've seen before. A possible gas leak caused sewer drains to catch fire and a house explosion around 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Firefighters and LG&E crews remained at the scene on River Trail Place off Cooper Chapel Road in Okolona all day Tuesday trying to find the cause.
By 9 p.m. investigators say they discovered a water line was leaking underground near the house, and pushed a brick into the gas line, which caused a hole in the line.
Three homes were damaged by the explosion, one was completely demolished. In just an instant the smell of gas turned into a fire that took down the Coehlo family home and nearly the lives of Everton Coehlo, his wife and two-year-old girl inside.
"My wife and my little girl were coming down the stairs. (The walls) were broken and I was taking the walls away from them so we could leave," said Coehlo as he described what it was like as the walls came crumbling in around them.
Firefighters say Coehlo called LG&E Tuesday morning to report he was smelling gas. Not long after crews arrived, the house erupted.
"A loud boom," said John Bates, a neighbor of the Coehlos. "Sewer caps flying through the air and a large ball of fire from the garage."
The explosion was so strong it left the garage door in one giant piece on the lawn of a neighbor. Though the family made it out with seconds to spare, the family dog didn't make it.
"The guy was trying to go back in his house to get his dog and you could hear the dog barking and that was really sad," said Delphine Evans, who lives nearby.
"I mean I couldn't get it (the dog)," said a tearful Coehlo. "It was so quick."
The family was taken to a hospital Tuesday afternoon to be checked out. Firefighters were concerned they could suffer symptoms of shock or other side effects of surviving such a strong blast.
Eighteen homes in the neighborhood were evacuated and many more had their power and gas cut off for most of the day.
It's a heartbreaking scene, that has several neighbors on edge in fear something may be wrong with the gas lines.
"A house across the street there burned down in September and they said that had something to do possibly with the gas lines, too, so I'm getting kind of concerned now as to what is going on in the neighborhood," said Evans.
"It could have been any of us," said Derrick Wickliffe Sr., who lives in the neighborhood. "This close to Christmas, they lost everything, the cars were in there and everything."
Late Tuesday afternoon, utility crews had been unable to find the source of the leak and will be conducting a pressure test on the line. That process could take several hours.
What sparked the explosion is still not clear, fire investigators say once a certain amount of gas enters a home there are so many factors that can cause this. Nine homes were still without natural gas at the end of the day Tuesday. Crews will continue to work and hope to have all families back home by noon Wednesday.
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