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Officials: NJ House Explosion Caused by Utilities and Gas

Officials revealed the cause of a gas explosion that leveled a New Jersey home and injured 15 people.

The ordeal began Tuesday around 8:55 a.m. when police received a call for an odor inspection on Oak Avenue in the Cedar Run neighborhood of Stafford Township near U.S. Route 9. Officers, firefighters and emergency crews who were dispatched to the neighborhood, quickly confirmed a gas leak, called in the New Jersey Natural Gas Company and evacuated 75 nearby homes.

Investigators later determined the gas leak was caused by a cracked 2-inch steel main distribution line buried underneath Oak Avenue. As the workers searched for the source of the leak, the gas made its way along a water line from the street to the basement of an Oak Avenue home.

“As it built up, you have utilities in your basement,” said Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Al Della Fave. “You have your furnace and your water heater that send out sparks. One of those utilities sparked the explosion.”

Investigators believe the gas had been leaking and building up throughout the night but it wasn’t noticed until people started getting up in the morning.

The blast destroyed one home, damaged several others and injured 15 people. Dashcam video from a Stafford Township police cruiser shows the blast as it happened as workers and firefighters were next to the house. A longer dashcam video showing the aftermath of the explosion was obtained by NBC10 Wednesday.

The new video includes audio and shows police officers running towards the scene. You also hear frantic efforts to help one of the victims.

"He's breathing! He's breathing," one person screams. "Breathe buddy! You got it buddy! Come on! Breathe man!"

Dean Barnett of Manahawkin, New Jersey and Edward Jones of Marlton, New Jersey are two gas workers who were the most seriously injured in the explosion.

Barnett is currently in critical condition at the Atlanticare Regional Medical Center Trauma Unit in Atlantic City. Jones was treated at Atlanticare and later released. Jones told NBC10 he did not want to talk about the explosion but was glad to be home.

Five other gas workers, six members of the Stafford Township Volunteer Fire Company and two members of the Stafford Township EMS were all injured in Tuesday’s blast and later released from the hospital.

"The house has been disintegrated," said Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora.

As SkyForce10 hovered over the scene, debris could be seen scattered all over the place as some trees in the area burned. Only the home's foundation remained. Officials said the blast could be felt from up to one mile away.

The evacuated residents were later allowed back into their homes. One of the residents, Lyn Thomas, told NBC10 she's not staying in her home because she doesn't believe it's safe due to the structural damage. 

Thomas said she's waiting on her insurance company to take a look at her house.

"Because they need a structural engineer they will come out on Friday," she said. "They'll tell me what they're willing to do and we'll go from there." 

A spokesman for the New Jersey Natural Gas Company told NBC10 all 300 homes affected had their gas service restored Wednesday.

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