A natural gas explosion rocked Allentown, PA last night. It happened just before 11:00 pm and leveled two houses, leaving three dead and two missing. Authorities believe the actual blast occurred inside the home of an elderly couple, Beatrice and William Hall. Many other residences lay burning in the wake of the explosion. According to fire Chief Robert Scheirer, victims ranged in age from 4 months to 79 years. Very little is known about what may have cause the blast that left 47 buildings damaged and eight others demolished.
The damage would have been far worse were it not for the efforts of firefighters who worked feverishly throughout the night to contain the blaze, which they had successfully done by Thursday morning. Their efforts were complicated by deep snow which delayed the firefighters as they tried to reach underground gas lines which were ruptured and thus continuously fed the flames.
An eerily similar explosion happened in my hometown of Knoxville, TN recently. In December of 2009, an nighttime blast shook through an upscale neighborhood, completely destroying the home of Stephen and Sue Krzeski. The two were lucky to be alive after the explosion. Their 18-year-old son, however, was not as fortunate. Nicholas Krzeski lost his life in the December 9, 2009 catastrophe.
The family who lived in the house prior to the Krzeskis are friends of ours. The fact that such a tragedy happened in our hometown was one thing. The fact that it could have easily ravaged the lives of close friends was something else, entirely. Not that the fact that we didn’t personally know the Krzeskis made it any easier to bare.
Anytime something of this nature happens, it makes you appreciate how random tragedies can be. Natural gas explosions of this magnitude are incredibly rare. But that’s twice now that similar blasts have happened in a little over 14 months. An investigation into the Knoxville accident revealed a ruptured “connection tee” which linked the gas main to the home’s service line. What’s not clear, however, is whether or not the ruptured “connection tee” led to the explosion or simply resulted because of it.
It’s still too early to know what may have caused the disaster in Allentown. Jennifer Kocher, spokesperson for the state Public Utility Commission indicated that they are investigating for any violations of state or federal law which may have compromised the safety of the residents affected by the blast. ”We don’t know if it was the main, we don’t know if it was the service line, if it was inside the house, outside the house,” Kocher said. “It’s all very preliminary at this point.”
It’s all very tragic at this point, too. And random. Our hearts go out to all of those impacted.
Below is a video of the initial images of the accident.