Harrisburg, PA House Explosion, Jan 1984


Harrisburg (AP) -- A mother and her daughter were killed early today in an apparent gas explosion that leveled their home in a suburban development, officials said.
About 60 people were evacuated following the blast in Lower Paxton Township, and the local gas company UGI Corp., shut off service in the area, police said.
The victims were identified by the Dauphin County coroner's office as GLENDA ANDERSON, 45, and her daughter, JERRI, 18.
A son, BRENT, 19, was at work at the time of the explosion, shortly before 2 a.m.
At the scene this morning, there was nothing left of the house except the foundation. The only things standing out front were a mail box, a tree, steps from the street that lead to nothing and a Ford Escort in the driveway. Debris had been blown into nearby trees and one neighbor, Clarence Hollenbach, said, "There was insulation all over the street like snow."
Swatara Township Police Sgt. William Gelbaugh, who lives on the street and saw the house in flames, described the damage as "terrible."
"It was one of the worst scenes I have ever seen and I've been a police officer for 18 years," he said.
Detective Carl Weidensaul of the Lower Paxton Police Department said officers patroling the area heard the explosion about 1:47 a.m., found the home "almost leveled," and detected an odor of natural gas.
"It's an apparent gas leak and explosion," he said. "Two bodies were found."
Township Police Lt. Gary Weisinger said UGI was investigating the explosion and suspected a leak in a gas main directly in front of the house.
One nearby house was damaged by the explosion. The occupant, identified by police as Paul McClain, who has a heart ailment, was taken to Osteopathic Hospital for an examination, but suffered no injuries, Weisinger said.
People who were evacuated were allowed to return to their homes this morning, Weisinger said.
Dave Garland, who lives eight houses down the street, said he smelled gas in his home about 1:15 a.m. He said he called the gas company and was told it would be best to leave the house.
"As we were going out the door, we could feel the ground shaking," he said. He turned to see whether the blast was at his house and didn't see the explosion down the street.
He said he feared other houses would explode so he went door to door awakening his neighbors.

Gettysburg Times Pennsylvania 1984-01-11