Searching for Answers After House Explosion

Neighbors became heroes when they ran into the home to rescue the couple

A husband and wife were seriously injured after their house exploded Thursday afternoon.

By Friday afternoon as the couple remained hospitalized, federal authorities sifted through the rubble to try and figure out what leveled the one-story Lower Township, Cape May County, couple home.

"It was a horrific explosion," said Lower Township Mayor Michael Beck who lives about 150 feet away and heard the explosion just before 4 p.m. Thursday.

"I heard the explosion and we came over here and it was a large fire, building completely flat, car next to it on fire," said Beck. "It's totally demolished."

The husband and wife, identified as Evelyn and James McCarty, both 67, were both listed in critical condition. A family member says Evelyn was badly burned.

On Friday the Cape May County fire marshal was on the scene trying to rule out causes for the explosion so that they could officially determine what led to the blast.

Homes in the neighborhood were recently going from Propane to oil or natural gas heat so it's possible that played a role but it wasn't clear.

As if standard protocol after a blast causing serious injuries, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives were on the scene to assist in the investigation.

A woman, who lives down the street from the explosion scene at 234 East Atlantic Avenue, tells NBC10 she watched the couple by taken away by emergency crews.

"I seen 3 or 4 people carrying a woman, an elderly woman, down the street towards the ambulance that was coming up the street," said Jamie Swindell. "Then about 2 minutes after that, I seen a wheelchair coming down the street and the husband was in the wheelchair and they were both in really bad condition."

John Babbitt, who also lives in the neighborhood, says he didn't see what happened, but he definitely felt it.

"My whole house just shook," said Babbitt. "I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was an earthquake for a second. Then I saw a bunch of fire and smoke."

Lower Township Police say the husband and wife are in their mid-60s and suffered serious burn injuries.  The husband was in the shower when the house exploded, according to the Township Manager, Mike Voll, who described this as a big shakeup for the neighborhood.

"It was quite an explosion, you could feel it a mile away," said Voll. He also says they were initially concerned because gas lines were recently installed in the neighborhood, but the police chief and fire officials assured him it was contained to this one home.

"The man appeared to have some burns on his feet and he had a blanket wrapped around him and had some burns on his face," said Swindell.

Mayor Beck thanked some local heroes in the neighborhood for springing into action to help the couple.

"The people from the neighborhood, the people who live here including an off-duty police officer, went right in and pulled the wife out," said Beck. "Once they found out where the husband was supposed to be, they went back in and got the husband out of there."

NBC10 caught up with one of those neighbors who bravely ran into the home.

"Me and four other guys went running over and pulled Jim and Evelyn put of the house and brought them to safety. And then the house went up in flames," said Nick Blasi.

Nearby homes and adjoining blocks were evacuated, but Voll said those residents were allowed to return home.

Neighbors rushing to the scene, captured the moments after the explosion and the rescue of the couple on video. Watch below:

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