• Columbia Gas takes responsibility for explosion that destroyed home, injured 5

    Updated:

    NORTH FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, Pa. - A home exploded Wednesday afternoon in North Franklin Township, just 35 miles from Pittsburgh.

    WHAT HAPPENED

    The explosion was reported around 3:50 p.m. on Park Avenue.

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    The people who lived in the home smelled gas and were able to get out of the home before the explosion.

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    Channel 11's Cara Sapida confirmed that five people, including the homeowner and three firefighters, were injured.

    On Thursday, Columbia Gas took responsibility for the explosion.

    The North Franklin Township supervisor said a cease and desist order is being issued and no additional upgrade work by Columbia Gas will be permitted in the township until further notice.

    GAS COMPANY RESPONDS

    Columbia Gas shut off gas to approximately 60 customers in the area following the explosion.

    The company confirmed to Channel 11 News it had employees working in the area on Wednesday.

    During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Columbia Gas officials said the home was part of a line where a pressure regulator was being installed nearby, causing a buildup of pressure and eventually the explosion.

    "Our customers deserve safe, reliable delivery of natural gas. We failed to deliver on this mission, and for that we are deeply sorry," Michael Huwar, president of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, said. "We walked the area several times and just missed this location. The responsibility of this incident is Columbia Gas."

    Huwar said all non-emergency work is being temporarily suspended in North Franklin Township while the investigation continues.

    The gas company spent Wednesday night going door to door, checking the gas lines for leaks and making sure everything is safe and working properly. The inspection of the affected gas system was completed and relights began around 11 p.m., according to the company. 

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    The gas company provided the following update Friday morning:

    "As part of Columbia Gas' commitment to help our customers recover, we have engaged a contractor, SERVPRO, along with support from NPL, to clear all debris from the site of the explosion and from the properties of any other individuals that may have been affected. Clean-up work will begin on August 2 and will be done at no cost to those affected.

    "In addition, in areas where Columbia Gas has suspended work on pipeline replacement and modernization projects, crews will be restoring customers' properties to the same condition they were prior to the start of our projects.

    "You may see these workers on or near your property in the coming days performing this work. If you have concerns, please call us at 1-888-460-4332.

    "If your service is still off, call us immediately at 1-888-460-4332 and we will dispatch a technician. Please make sure that an adult (18 or older) is present to allow our employees to restore service. All Columbia Gas employees and contractors wear a company-issued ID badge with their photo on it."

    Columbia Gas requests that anyone wishing to submit a damage claim from the explosion call 1-800-445-5846.

    If anyone smells gas, the company says to evacuate immediately and call 911 and Columbia Gas at 1-888-460-4332.

    COMMUNITY REACTION

    People who live in the neighborhood like Gaylord Rea are just beginning to process what happened.

    Rea showed Channel 11 News the damage inside his place. The windows and doors are blown out in some rooms. There is a massive hole in the kitchen ceiling.

    Rea said what's so surreal is he and his wife were outside five minutes before it happened, and he realizes they could have been killed in the explosion.

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    "We could've been dead, first part about it. We just had a big party out here Saturday. We had about 15 people out here. If that would've happened Saturday, it would've been in bad shape up here," Rea said. 

    Other neighbors, including the American Legion, told Channel 11 News they had windows blown out. There are reports from people who felt the explosion as far as 5 miles away.

    CLEANUP

    Columbia Gas trucks were parked throughout neighborhoods in North Franklin Township on Aug. 2. Crews loaded them with pieces of wood, insulation and any type of debris that ended up in nearby yards.

    It's the first step in the gas company's cleanup plan.

    They were able to clean up those areas early this morning. And once we get authorization to go into the site of the home we will be able to clean that debris up as well," said Lee Gierczynski, a spokesperson for Columbia Gas.

    "As for the explosion site, there's no telling when cleanup will begin there.It's difficult to determine what the timetable will be for clean up it all. Depends how satisfied the regulators are and investigators gathering the evidence surrounding this case," Gierczynski said.

    Right now, the focus is also on the woman who once owned the home that explodd.

    "We have had claims adjusters here working w the homeowner to make sure that the homeowner is going to be made whole," Gierczynski said.


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