Shop-Vac Blamed for Bensalem Gas Station Explosion That Killed 2 Workers

The Tuesday evening blast killed the gas station's co-owner and severely injured a part-time worker

A Shop-Vac being used to suck up water next to an underground gas tank at a Bensalem, Pennsylvania, gas station caused a catastrophic explosion that killed one man and critically injured another.

Bensalem Fire-Rescue officials said late Thursday that the Tuesday afternoon explosion was an accident.

Joe Vigilante, who co-owned the Liberty Gas station along 1200 block of Bristol Pike, was killed in the blast that was so strong it registered on a seismic detector nearly 20 miles away at Temple University in North Philadelphia.

Part-time worker Frank Tomaselli, 63, suffered burns across 45 percent of his body in the explosion. He remains in critical condition at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's Burn Unit.

Tomaselli's partner, Shirley Coates, said she's concerned he will not survive.

Investigators said Vigilante was using the Shop-Vac in an underground vault next to three 8,000 to 12,000 gallon tanks when either the motor or electricity feeding the vacuum ignited gasoline fumes.

The blast blew apart the concrete above and sent a fireball shooting high into the air, according to witnesses.

Vigilante's body was trapped underground for 12 hours before firefighters were able to safely recover his remains.

Contact Us