Tacony Gas Blast Kills 19-Year-Old Worker

4 other PGW workers & a firefighter are also injured

By Dan Stamm
|  Wednesday, Jan 19, 2011  |  Updated 11:58 PM EDT
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Watch amazing video as a massive explosion rocks the Tacony section of Philly causing injuries and a major fire.<br /><br /><a href=Get up to speed with the full story here." />

NBCPhiladelphia.com - Geoff Nichols

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

Get up to speed with the full story here.

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NBC10 Videographer Catches Blast on Tape

NBC10 videographer Geoff Nichols was there when a deadly gas explosion erupted in Tacony Tuesday. Hear from Nichols about what it was like to be there.

Deadly Blast Rocks Tacony

The day after a deadly gas explosion rocked Philadelphia's Tacony section several residents who were evacuated were feeling lucky to get out alive.
More Photos and Videos

A giant explosion rocked the Tacony Section of Philadelphia Tuesday night claiming the life of a teenage gas worker.

The body of PGW employee Mark Keeley from the Fox Chase section of the city was found after the fire was controlled. He was only 19-years-old.

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.

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

Gas workers Keith Henderson, Bill Mahoney and Kevin Summerville are in critical condition at the Temple University Hospital Burn Unit. A fourth worker, Gil Vasquez, was treated and released.

A firefighter, Donald Pearl, 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 a building and partially destroyed another, Ayers said. A chiropractor's office and apartment were almost completely wiped out.

"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.

PGW was investigating the cause of the explosion. President and CEO Thomas Knudson and EVP and Acting COO Craig White shared their condolences in a released statement: 

On behalf of PGW’s officers and the entire PGW family, we extend our sincerest condolences and our continuing support to those involved in this tragic incident. Support services are being made available for all employees at PGW’s Corporate Headquarters.

The natural gas infrastructure around Torresdale Ave. has been made safe and only a small number of customers are currently without service. We do not yet know the cause of the incident, but will continue to work with the Philadelphia Fire Marshall to investigate. And finally, as employees continue to work in the field and our offices, we would like to thank them for their dedication and service to the people of Philadelphia.


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