Pennsylvania Home Explosion Is the Third in 15 Years, Investigation Continues Into Cause

Image Source: Image KDKA via FOX Photo Source: Image KDKA via FOX

Authorities are continuing their investigation into the deadly home explosion that killed five individuals in the western Pennsylvania town of Plum. The explosion leveled at least three homes and damaged dozens more. Among the dead were four adults and one teen.

The Allegheny County Fire Marshal’s Office has taken the lead in the investigation and is working alongside local, state, and federal authorities to determine what caused the explosion and what other hazards may still exist.

The explosion took place just before 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 12th. Ring doorbell footage from a neighboring home shows the deadly blast while reports of individuals on the other side of town detail hearing the explosion that morning.

At least 18 fire departments were dispatched to the scene where victims were found buried under the rubble. Officials later determined that the deceased included Casey Clontz, 38, and Clontz’s 12-year-old son Keegan Clontz; Heather Oravitz, 51; Kevin Sebunia, 55; and Michael Thomas, 57.

Not much is known about what caused the explosion, and officials warned that the investigation would be a “slow and long” process that could last “months if not years.”

According to reports, the house explosion has not been associated with a gas leak. However, it's believed that the homeowners of the house that exploded were experiencing issues with their hot water tank in the week before the explosion.

As a precaution, gas and electric power to the local area were turned off after the explosion, Electric power has since been restored.

The community of Plum is still grappling with the unexplained explosion that leveled a portion of this otherwise quiet neighborhood. Neighbor Alexis Typanski shared with local outlet WTAE, “I heard this ‘boom.’ It was so loud that it woke me up. I thought it was thunder from the storms last night,” said Typanski, adding, “My water bottle fell on me instantaneously. I was shaking. It scared me so bad.”

Other nearby residents report feeling violent shaking, with many experiencing debris from the explosion hitting their homes.

State Governor Josh Shapiro took to the online platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to share condolences with the families of the victims and the community as a whole. “Lori and I are praying for family, friends, and neighbors who lost someone in Plum yesterday, and we’re grateful for the first responders who ran toward danger to save lives,” Shapiro shared.

As the investigation continues, officials have shared that this explosion is one of three that have happened in the township over the past 15 years. Most recent was an explosion that happened in April of last year according to the Allegheny County director of communications, Amie Downs. That investigation is still underway.

In March 2008, another home exploded, killing one man and injuring a four-year-old girl. According to an NTSB pipeline accident brief, the explosion of a natural gas distribution pipeline was the probable cause for the explosion. The pipeline was believed to be damaged during an excavation in 2003 which had “stripped the pipe’s protective coating and made the pipe susceptible to corrosion and failure.”

President of the gas service Peoples Natural Gas, Michael Huwar, shared that gas systems were “operating as designed” before Saturday's explosion. Despite this, the gas remains shut off as a precautionary measure.

As the investigation continues, residents are met with more questions than answers and are grappling with how to move forward after this deadly home explosion.

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate from James Madison University, where she studied English and Education. Residing in Central Virginia with her husband and two young daughters, she balances her workaholic tendencies with a passion for travel, exploring the world with her family.
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