EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – The landscape of north Weinbach Avenue changed forever on August 10, 2022. One year ago, debris littered the area as a house explosion rocked the neighborhood.
“It was mayhem. It was absolute destruction,” recalls Evansville Fire Chief Mike Connelly. “The amount of force that was released in that house explosion was something that I’ve never seen before.”
Chief Connelly says he has seen plenty of destruction in his career, but says the explosion was different because the damage was done before first responders ever arrived.
“In many cases, we just have to reconcile the fact in our mind that sometimes we can save people, sometimes we can’t,” explains Chief Connelly. “Sometimes the damage is already done.”
For the Hite family, it’s been a year of ups and downs. The explosion took the lives of Charlie and Martina Hite, as well as Jessica Teague. Charlie’s sister Melissa Evans and sister-in-law Christina Hite placed a memorial at the now-vacant lot on north Weinbach.
“It takes a toll on us as far as coming by,” says Hite. “Like, wow, Charlie and Martina used to live there.” Evans adds, “You can just drive down the street and if you don’t know what happened, there’s nothing here to even remind you of it.”
Hite says with something as unexpected as a home explosion, the family struggles with the fact that they never got to say goodbye to Charlie and Martina. One year later, the scars are still clear. Empty lots, boarded up houses, and debris still tangled in power lines above.
“When I drive down, I still can’t breathe. Like, my breath just leaves,” explains Evans.
For the past year, the family has battled thoughts of wishing they spent more time together, and what more could have been done to get them out of the house before the explosion. But the family is also honoring their late relatives with Melissa, Christina and Charlie’s mother Nila Hite giving advice to those still here.
“Families that have like itty bitty drama that’s keeping you away from your family,” says Evans, “get over it. Seriously. Life is so short. It’s so short.”
“Love like Martina and Charlie,” says Nila Hite. “We just never know when we’re going to lose somebody, you know? Love them while you can.”
The Hite family says they are grateful for the support of the community and their church family they have received since the tragedy. Chief Connelly echoed those remarks, saying he was amazed at the resiliency of the community.