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Suspected house explosion claims two lives in Montgomery County

Latest: The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office has identified the other person found dead inside the house as 91-year-old Marilyn Fox.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Retired Indiana National Guard General Richard Chastain’s birthday was yesterday. Today, his friends, family, and military acquaintances were to gather in the Darlington Community Center, a building he is credited with saving, to celebrate a life well-lived.  

DeAntha Wright-Thornburg helped plan the General’s birthday celebration. Wright-Thornburg told I-Team 8’s Richard Essex that “It is the friends that we meet along the way that makes the journey possible, and makes us appreciate life,” was one of General Chastain’s favorite sayings.  

General Richard Chastain and two other people were inside of his house early Saturday morning. Neighbors told the fire department they heard an explosion around 8:30 a.m. Firefighters found one man in the front yard, who was taken by air ambulance to an Indianapolis hospital. Richard Chastain and another person were found dead inside the house. When the fire department arrived, there was almost no chance of saving the house. “It had partially collapsed on arrival then we were here five minutes when the rest of it collapsed,” said Scott Busenbark, fire chief for the Crawfordsville Fire Department.  

Hours after the fire department had done their job, members of the Chastain family came to sort through what was left of the house. The family and many others had planned to be on the other side of the county celebrating General Chastain’s birthday. I-Team 8 was told he spent the better part of four decades in the service before retiring from the Indiana National Guard in the early 90’s as a General.  

“He was a friend to many in the community, and he helped many with their careers. He was a member of our county council as a county commissioner,” said Wright-Thornburg.

Retirement wasn’t a time to slow down for Chastain, just an opportunity to redirect his efforts. I-Team 8 was told he worked tirelessly to preserve the Darlington Armory, and the memories of those that passed through its doors. He convinced the National Guard to donate the building to town.  

“It was turned over to the city. It is now a community center where they have had many wedding receptions and art exhibits,” said Wright-Thornburg. 

Saturday, the building was scheduled to host a birthday celebration for retired General Richard Chastain. Some of the pictures of his time in the service had been at his house.  

“He had pointed out things around the house that were most important to him to share today. Those items that I had set up were here on display, so it is kind of a small blessing that we still have some memories that were important to him,” said Wright-Thornburg.

I-Team 8’s Richard Essex spoke to retired Indiana National Guard Major General R. Martin Umbarger, who spoke highly of General Chastain, fondly recalling his service under the general.

Brigadier General J. Stewart Goodwin, retired Assistant Adjutant General of the Indiana National Guard, called General Chastain his mentor and “the kind of man you expected to live forever.”