Crews Spend Hours Trying to Rescue Worker Trapped After Blast at Bensalem Gas Station - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Crews Spend Hours Trying to Rescue Worker Trapped After Blast at Bensalem Gas Station

Explosion rocks Liberty Gas station along the 1200 block of Bristol Pike Tuesday. Fumes cause dangerous situation for rescue crews.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Gas Station Explosion Becomes Recovery Operation

    Crews are working to recover a worker after he became trapped underground after an explosion Tuesday at a Bensalem gas station. Fire crews are trying to increase the air quality underground so they can resume the recovery effort. (Published Wednesday, June 13, 2018)

    UPDATE: Crews have located the body and identified the victim. New details here.


    After hours of trying to make contact with a worker trapped after a blast at a gas station in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, crews turned the rescue mission into a recovery effort.

    An underground tank inside of a vault that surrounds the tank exploded around 5 p.m. Tuesday, rocking the Liberty Gas station along the 1200 block of Bristol Pike, fire officials said.

    Two people were injured in the blast, Bensalem Township Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said. 

    WATCH LIVE: Harran is expected to update the search.

    A 63-year-old man was rescued and taken to Jefferson University Hospital in critical condition with burns on 45 percent of his body, Harran said. "The prognosis looks OK, right now for him," Harran said.

    A second man was trapped under heavy concrete blown apart in the blast. First responders spent 12 hours trying to make contact with him.

    Two firefighters were lowered into the hole, but were pulled back because of lingering gas fumes. Around 5 a.m. Wednesday, crews stopped trying to rescue the man because gas levels in the air were too high, firefighters said.

    "The fumes are extremely too high for us to put our personnel underground, so at this point we’re pulling them all back," Bensalem Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Rob Sponheimer said. "We're gonna keep ventilating the area... for the next few hours, and then we're gonna get our crews back out here later this morning to continue the recovery effort."

    Crews using air hoses and glow sticks, no electronics, planned to enter the hole around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

    "We hope that we can recover the victim and give the family closure," Harran said Wednesday.

    It appears the men were carrying out work to remove some water from an underground tank when the explosion happened, Harran said. It was unclear if the tank was breached before or during the blast.

    "Just looking out over at the gas station I saw the giant ball of flame come up higher than the awning," one witness, Robert Smith, said. "Something went up in the air and came down about ten seconds later."

    The exact cause of the blast remained under investigation Wednesday. There are two other underground tanks at the gas station.

    Harran said there's a concern that a second explosion could happen. Heavy machinery arrived that lifted away large, broken concrete slabs. Crews continued to work late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning to rescue the worker. Crews removed about 8,000 gallons of fuel from the tank.

    Firefighters from Philadelphia and other surrounding towns and the ATF responded to help.

    About one dozen families who live nearby were forced to evacuate to safer ground but were allowed back into their homes after power was restored overnight. But, with crews blocking off roads, getting around wasn't easy.

    Officials urged drivers to avoid Bristol Pike up to Interstate 95 as they planned to close lanes Wednesday once they resumed work to recover the worker.