Gas Explosion Rocks Philly Neighborhood

19-year-old-PGW worker killed by giant blast Tuesday night: sources

By Dan Stamm
|  Wednesday, Jan 19, 2011  |  Updated 7:11 AM EDT
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One person is dead, four others hospitalized including a Philadelphia firefighter.

NBCPhiladelphia.com - Justin Pizzi

One person is dead, four others hospitalized including a Philadelphia firefighter.

Photos and Videos

Tacony Explosion

Explosion rocks Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood forcing dozens of people out of their homes.

Dramatic Video: Moment of Tacony Explosion

Watch amazing video as a massive explosion rocks the Tacony section of Philly causing injuries and a major fire.

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A giant explosion rocked the Tacony Section of Philadelphia Tuesday night claiming the life of a gas worker, PGW sources said.

The deadly blast happened as crews were working to patch a high-pressure gas main break.

"The street is all blown up," Mayor Michael Nutter said.

The dramatic blast sent flames and sparks high into the sky, a moment caught on tape by an NBC10 videographer on the scene.

The body of an unidentified PGW employee was found after the fire was controlled, according to sources. NBC10 sources say that the worker was only 19-years-old.

Three other PGW workers and one firefighter were transported to local hospitals, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.

Three of the gas workers are in critical condition at the Temple University Hospital Burn Unit. A firefighter is also at the Temple University Hospital Burn Unit in stable condition, sources said.

It happened around 7:36 p.m. in the middle of Disston Street near Torresdale Avenue as crews worked to fix both the gas leak and a water main that was possibly damaged due to pressure from the break in the 12-inch gas main.

Firefighters were called around 7:20 due to an obvious smell of gas. They arrived on the scene at 7:26 and called for hazmat crews and police officers to assist.

Around 7:30 gas was bubbling through the pavement, officials said.

Then the gas main blew, a moment described by videographer Geoff Nichols.

"I had my hand on the camera and it almost threw me back," he said.

The explosion and ensuing blaze took down one building and partially destroyed another, Ayers said.

"There was a split second when everyone was kind of wondering 'did that just happen,'" Nichols said. "Then some guys just sprung into action."

Gas officials shut off the gas as firefighters battled the blaze. By 10:30 p.m. the blaze appeared to be dying down and it was officially under control just before 11.

The blast could be felt as far away as Palmyra and Pennsauken across the river in New Jersey.

Before the blast dozens of people were evacuated from nearby homes and businesses within a two-block radius. There are houses, a retirement community and a 7-Eleven store near the intersection.

About 75 evacuees from 15 to 20 nearby homes went to temporary shelter at the Disston Rec Center. Everyone received snacks, blankets, etc. and then left the shelter after being allowed back home or finding a place to stay, the Red Cross said.

Some of the local homes would be without gas for the immediate future, Nutter said.

The PGW is still investigating the cause of the explosion.


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