EWING, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A powerful gas explosion at a Ewing, N.J. town house complex left one person dead and at least seven people injured Tuesday.
The blast occurred just off Interstate 95 at 28 Crockett Lane in the South Fork housing community around 1 p.m., CBS Philly reported. As Cleve Bryan of KYW-TV, Philadelphia reported, smoke was still billowing Tuesday night from the site where several homes once stood.
“There was an explosion that I cannot even describe,” one neighbor said.
“My husband thought a plane had hit because we were right here near the airport. And, we knew, we just could not even think. It was that horrifying,” resident Joanne Moon said.
Contractors were extending new electrical service to a town house when the explosion occurred, 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported.
Video from the scene shows damage to several units at the complex and widely scattered debris. Flames were seen shooting up from the ground, apparently fed by a gas line.
“It felt like a refrigerator fell in the apartment above me,” said neighbor Matt Ianni.
Ianni’s hand was left covered in cuts after falling on broken glass while evacuating his home.
He called it “a loud explosion that kind of took me back and made me fall back a little bit, and I just saw my whole front door come in, and I just started freaking out.”
The blast was quickly followed by flames, as fire spread throughout the townhouse community. Marsha Brown ran toward the scene to help.
“There were gas workers; that was broken bones, gashes, cuts — there were about three or four, and then a gas worker that was walking around in shock.”
Crews quickly shut off gas and electricity to the site, CBS Philly reported.
Ewing Police Lt. Ron Lunetta said five of the injured are public service employees and two work for a private subcontractor, Henkels & McCoy.
The person who died was a resident.
“We have ID’d the fatality as a female,” Lunetta said. “She was found – there was a car parked, and she was found on the hood of the car.”
Capital Regional Medical Center said at least seven patients injured in the explosion were transported there — two have traumatic injuries. Many of the injuries are said to be burns. One person is in critical condition, CBS Philly reported.
PSE&G released a statement around 2:15 p.m. saying a contractor was on the scene working on the line when it became damaged and then ignited.
Lunetta said the cause of the blast is not yet clear.
Fifty-five town houses were damaged.
Silverman reported that wisps of black smoke were rising from the wreckage late Tuesday afternoon, and shreds of pink and yellow fiberglass insulation was dangling from tree branches.
“I just heard this big boom,” one woman told Silverman.
“You could feel the couch in the house shake and stuff started falling off the wall and shelving and pictures,” a man said.
One man said he saw the cloud of smoke 10 miles away.
Witness Frank Marchetti was having lunch at Mountain View Golf Course — about a mile away from the town house complex — when the explosion happened.
“We’re sitting there having lunch and all the doors in the clubhouse, they started shaking. Everyone in the restaurant thought a plane crash,” Marchetti told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot. “We thought, ‘oh my God, it had to be a plane’ because we’re so close to the airport.”
Looking around, JoAnn Galespy said she knows it could have been much worse.
She noted it was “the middle of the week when people are at work. It was a blessing.”
Lt. Lunetta shared similar sentiments, saying as sad as the incident was, it could have been much worse, Baumgarten reported.
“By the grace of God – had it had to happen – at least the day time, a lot of the people were not there,” Lunetta said.
Ewing Township Mayor Bert Steinmann says people living in units evacuated but not damaged will be allowed back in their homes around 9 p.m. tonight.
The mayor says residents of about 30 homes will not be able to return tonight and the units will be re-assessed Wednesday morning.
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