(Columbia City, IN)- (5-22-21) This morning at approximately 9:00am, officers from multiple police agencies and fire departments responded to a reported building explosion at 515 N. Line St, Columbia City, IN. Arriving first responders found a warehouse structure located on this property fully engulfed in flames.
During the initial response, there were reportedly three adults in or around the building at the time of the initial explosion. Two of those adults were able to escape the building with only minor injury. One adult male remained trapped inside and was unable to be rescued due to the size and nature of the fire. There was significant damage to several adjacent business and residential structures to the south and west of the warehouse.
At approximately 2:30pm, after the fire scene was extinguished, police and fire investigators were then able to locate and recover the body of a deceased adult male.
Preliminary cause of the explosion and the subsequent structure fire is believed to be related to a natural gas leak, however the State Fire Marshal’s Office will be handling the fire portion of the investigation which will officially determine the cause and manner.
As part of this ongoing investigation, in cooperation with the Whitley County Coroner’s Office, the Indiana State Police will be the lead agency responsible for the conducting the death investigation, and ISP will be handling all official release of information.
Identifying the deceased will be part of the Whitley County Coroner’s official investigation. When the identification has been confirmed by the coroner, an update to this initial release will be sent out.
*At the time of this release, police and fire crews were still working in the area, which has a portion of the 500 block of Line Street shut down to local traffic. This shutdown will be necessary for several hours this evening.
There is no further information available to release at this time.
Agencies assisting in this investigation were: Troopers and detectives from the Indiana State Police Fort Wayne Post, Columbia City Police Department, Whitley County Sheriff’s Department, Columbia City Fire Department, Union Township Fire, Smith Township Fire, Thorn Creek Township Fire, Columbia Township Fire, Parkview EMS, Whitley County Prosecutor’s Office, Whitely County Coroner’s Office, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.