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1 Dead After Apparent Explosion Levels Home In Hunterdon County

Officials Say The Cause Of Stunning Incident Is Unknown

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HAMPTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New Jersey neighborhood was rocked by a house explosion that left a woman dead Wednesday morning.

As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, one person escaped the inferno on New Street in Hampton, which erupted just before 7 a.m.

The images of the blast were stunning, with an enormous fireball visible from blocks around the home that blew up.

By Wednesday night, all that remained of the house was a pile of charred rubble, with charred appliances visible.

Neighbors were shocked and terrified when the explosion right in the middle of the house sent a massive plume of smoke into the air.

“We woke from a dead, 100 percent sleep. It literally shook the bed, moved things around on our table,” neighbor Angela Patterson told CBS 2’s Sloan. “You look and you see the house is completely engulfed. All you see was the red car out front.”

A neighbor told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot that there was a person in the basement of the house when the possible explosion occurred.

“I was just in shock,” neighbor Larissa Bumback told Sloan. “The woman who knows the woman inside was trying to get on the phone with her.”

Retired firefighter Tom Della Ventura said he was across the street from the scene with his dog when the home exploded.

“I heard a boom,” Della Ventura said. “I put her in the house.”

Della Ventura said he then ran toward the fire. The roof had collapsed onto the house, and a woman was trapped inside.

“I tried to remove the debris,” he said. “It was just too heavy. I couldn’t. Somebody said she was in the basement. I yelled; I heard her calling for help. I told her to hang in there.”

But within seconds, the flames spread, and Della Ventura said he had no choice but to back off.

“I was trying to pull stuff out,” he said. “It was too hot.”

No one else could assist either, officials said.

“Neighbors came out of their residence and actually heard a person that was trapped in the home,” said State Police Sgt. Adam Grossman. “Due to the severity of the fire they were not able to assist her any further. Within minutes, fire departments were on scene working to put the fire out.”

The owner of the house said the 56-year-old woman was a guest and friend.

“She came and left as she pleased; had a key,” said homeowner George Tulley. “I didn’t know she was here last night.”

But Tulley said he found out after talking to another neighbor.

“The gal called the lady and said she was trapped inside,” Tulley said.

Neighboring homes were evacuated. It was also the first day of school for students at an elementary school a block away from the house explosion, but classes started an hour after the fire and the children did not see anything.

Investigators Wednesday evening were still trying to determine the cause of the fire. Grossman said there are no gas lines in the area, but the house did have a propane tank.

Neighbors said they were haunted by what happened.

“I know the last word she heard was my husband’s voice and he told her everybody was trying to help get her out,” said Mary Della Ventura.

Officials told CBS 2 that while they are looking at the propane tank attached to the house, they are not ruling any other cause out.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)