1 Dead, 7 Hurt In Gas Explosion At NJ Condo Complex

1 Dead, 7 Hurt In Gas Explosion At NJ Condo Complex

Posted: Updated:
EWING, N.J. -

One person was killed and seven utility workers were injured in an explosion and fire Tuesday afternoon at a Mercer County condo complex after a gas line was struck by a contractor, officials say.

The woman was found on the hood of a parked car at 28 Crockett Lane. Officials say there is a female missing at this time, but they are not actively searching for anyone.

The "ignition" occurred around 1 p.m. Tuesday on Crockett Lane in the South Fork at Ewing condominium complex in the Mountainview area of the township.

Witnesses compared the sound it made to a bomb going off or an earthquake. Others thought a jet might have crashed at the airport nearby.

Seven people -- five PSE&G employees and two private contractors -- were taken to hospitals. Five went to Capital Health Regional Medical Center's Trenton campus, and two others went to the Hopewell campus. None of their injuries are considered life-threatening.

PSE&G said two workers have injuries and five others are being kept for observation.

Ewing Township Police Dept. Lt. Ron Lunetta said early on that they were calling hospitals to see if any more patients walked in, adding, "It is a pretty horrific scene down there."

Word of a resident being killed in the blast came during a 5 p.m. news conference. Luneta said he'd just been informed, and they did not immediately have an identity for the person, who was found outside a residence.

SkyFOX over the scene initially showed flames, apparently from gas lines, where condo unit No. 28 once stood.

There was widely scattered debris on the ground and insulation in trees nearby, as well as damage to surrounding buildings. The condition of other condos is not known yet.

Officials said a contractor, Henkels & McCoy, was doing work in the area and felt they struck something. They retreated and tried to make contact with their people and PSE&G.

The utility company said in an updated statement later Tuesday afternoon:

Shortly before noon today, PSE&G responded to a report that a gas line was damaged by a contractor working for PSE&G to replace an underground electric service at 28 Crockett Lane in Ewing. PSE&G gas crews had just arrived on scene to investigate when there was an ignition. Seven PSE&G employees were transported to an area hospital.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.

Gas service was cut off to the area, and the flames were out by mid-afternoon.

A PSE&G representative says the gas main was not ruptured, and the utility expects to restore service Tuesday night.

Lunetta says 55 units have sustained damage. State and local inspectors are at the scene checking for structural damage, and power is shut off to the area, too.

Roads were closed in the area, including Interstate 95 ramps in both directions at Exit 2 (Route 579/Bear Tavern Road).

Evacuees are being taken to the West Trenton Volunteer Fire Co. on West Upper Ferry Road.

Ewing Public Schools reported that dismissal was occurring at regular time, and buses were attempting to drop off all students: "If it is unsafe or impossible, busses will return to the schools with the students and parents/guardians will be contacted by school administrators for pickup."

Hospitals from the surrounding area are putting out a call for blood donations, according to the Community Blood Council of New Jersey. To donate, go to the council's location at 1410 Parkside Avenue in Ewing. For more information, call (609) 883-9750 or visit www.GiveBloodNJ.org.

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