Propane Leak Appears to Have Caused Explosion That Leveled House, Severely Burned Couple

By Vince Lattanzio
|  Friday, Nov 8, 2013  |  Updated 6:40 PM EDT
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Skyforce10 over East Atlantic Avenue in Lower Township, Cape May County where a house exploded, injuring a husband and wife.

NBC10

Skyforce10 over East Atlantic Avenue in Lower Township, Cape May County where a house exploded, injuring a husband and wife.

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An explosion at a Cape May County home, that left a couple severely burned, appears to have been caused by leaking propane gas, the county's fire marshal says.

Evelyn and James McCarty's home along the 200 block of East Atlantic Avenue in The Villas, N.J. was leveled in the blast just before 4 p.m. on Thursday. The explosion was so strong, it was felt more than a mile away.

The couple, both 67, were inside the home when the gas ignited and suffered critical injuries in the explosion. A family member said Evelyn suffered severe burns.

Cape May County Fire Marshal Connie Johnson tells NBC10 investigators are confident that a gas leak sparked the blast, but they are still honing in on the type of fuel involved.

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"The strong indication is that this was a propane leak," he said. "We are confident that the incident was not caused by natural gas or the natural gas system."

Neighbors and township officials said the neighborhood had recently been transitioning from heat fueled by propane to either oil or natural gas.

Neighbors rushed to the home in the moments after the blast and several people helped carry Evelyn from the rubble to an ambulance that was arriving on the scene. James was later pulled out and put into a wheelchair before being rushed to the hospital.

Both remain in critical condition, officials say.

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) arrived at the site on Friday to assist with the investigation.

Officials from the state fire marshal unit, Lower Township Police, Cape May County Prosecutor's Office and others are involved in the investigation, which is ongoing.

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