Philadelphia, PA Tavern Gas Explosion, May 1979
SIX KILLED, 18 HURT IN PHILADELPHIA BLAST.
Philadelphia -- At least six persons were killed and 18 others were injured when a natural gas explosion leveled a tavern and adjoining rowhouse Friday afternoon in a workingclass neighborhood, police said.
The blast injured people up to a block away, knocked a passing motorist unconscious, and hurled an elderly man through a plate glass store window, according to police.
One of the victims, DORIS HOPP, 40, was crushed by flying debris while waiting for a bus across the street from the tavern, police said.
HERBERT SUMMERS, a 57-year-old candy worker, said he had just left the tavern after failing to find a friend among the patrons when the explosion occurred.
"I left and walked to the curb, and all of a sudden there was this blast," he said. "The first thing I knew I put my hands over my head and felt myself being pushed forward ..... I turned around and saw one poor guy coming toward me. He was bleeding all over."
Firemen continued to sift through the rubble today for victims, and police Capt. Wilbert LeVan said there was a possibility that one or two persons were still buried.
The explosion occurred about 3:03 p.m. after residents had reported smelling gas in the area, police said.
The blast crumbled George's Bar and the unoccupied rowhouse, setting off a raging fire that burned for about 2 hours, police said.
Windows within a block of the tavern were shattered by the explosion, and a second rowhouse was damaged by fire, police said.
The Red Cross set up an emergency shelter for 40 families who were forced to leave their homes, but the shelter was eventually closed when all the families found lodgings with friends in the neighborhood.
About 300 homes were without gas and electricity, but service was expected to be restored today.
Don Kenly, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), said the explosion was caused when gas from a broken main under the street gradually collected in the basements of the bar and rowhouse. The gas could then have been ignited by the slightest spark, he said.
"We believe something caused the ground (under the street) to be washed away and the traffic overhead caused the unsupported main to be broken," he added.
Edward Brown, a PGW customer relations specialist who had been sent to the scene, was reported missing after the explosion. Kenly said Brown was believed to have been in one of the basements when the explosion occurred.
The victims, in addition to MRS. HOPP, were identified as:
HENRY TRAYNOR, 38.
GERALD LADZENSKI, 26.
ANTHONY KASIEWSKI, 54.
HARRY F. SMITH, 50.
ALFRED C. KAHRKLINSCH, about 62.
Bar owner GEORGE MARTIN, 53, was reported in critical condition today at the St. Agnes Hospital Burn Center with multiple burns and other injuries.
The Daily Intelligencer Doylestown Pennsylvania