Five people have died after a Pennsylvania house exploded on a suburban street on Saturday. According to authorities, the flames quickly spread to nearby houses, causing walls to crumble and windows to shatter.
The explosion happened at approximately 10 a.m. in Plum, a suburb of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. It leveled three homes on the residential street and damaged nearly a dozen others.
The chief of the Plum Borough Police Department, Lanny Conley, said at a news conference that five individuals – four adults and one adolescent had died from the explosion. Steve Imbarlina, who works for Allegheny County Emergency Services, said that one person remains in critical condition while two others have since been released from the hospital.
57 Firefighters who were at the scene fighting the flames were also treated for minor injuries.
Officials are currently investigating the cause of the explosion but have said it can take a while as it will require extensive testing.
In an “abundance of caution” electricity and gas have also been shut off in the affected area.
According to the president of Peoples Natural Gas, Michael Huwar, their workers arrived in the area 15 minutes after receiving a call about the explosion. They immediately began to check for gas leaks in the neighborhood. It was later determined that their system was “operating as designed.”
The residential neighborhood, which sits on top of abandoned mine land, is also surrounded by shallow gas and oil wells, some of which are abandoned. Approximately 1,000 feet from the house that exploded, there are two vertical gas wells that are still producing.
There is also a pipeline that runs behind the land, however, they have not been identified as the cause of the explosion.
According to George Emamnuele, who lives a few houses down from where the blast occurred, he could feel the explosion in his chest. He also said that his house shook, which caused parts of the wall and ceiling to fall down. The explosion also bent one of his garage doors, which prevented him from getting out of the house. Fortunately, he was able to escape through another door.
He and another neighbor eventually worked together to pull a burned man away from the house that was in flames.
Gas Leaks in Other Residential Neighborhoods
Three days after the deadly blast, two separate gas leaks were investigated by crews in Plum’s Regency Park neighborhood. One leak was along Crestview and Mowers drives while the other was at Kathy Lynn Drive.
The Rustic Ridge neighborhood, where the explosion took place, is approximately 10 minutes from the Rustic Ridge neighborhood.
According to neighbors, they had called the gas company after smelling gas on Tuesday. The crew later confirmed that there were gas leaks.
Update: The first five victims have been identified as a father-and-son pair, 38-year-old Casey Clontz and 12-year-old Keegan Clontz, 55-year-old Kevin Sebunia, 57-year-old Michael Thomas, and 51-year-old Heather Oravitz.
A sixth victim, later identified as Paul Oravitz, a 56-year-old resident, also died on Wednesday.