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6 dead, several hurt in Pennsylvania house explosion

Hot water tank blamed for deadly house explosion
Hot water tank blamed for deadly house explosion 00:25

Six people were killed and several others injured in a house explosion Saturday in Plum, a suburb of Pittsburgh. The explosion destroyed three structures and damaged at least a dozen others, authorities said.

The explosion occurred at a home owned by Heather Oravitz, the town's community development director, and her husband. Plum Mayor Harry Schlegel said Oravitz, 51, and Plum Borough Manager Michael Thomas, 57, were killed in the blast, along with three others who lived in the neighborhood: Kevin Sebunia, 55; Casey Clontz, 38, and Clontz's 12-year-old son, Keegan, the Associated Press reported. 

The sixth victim, Paul Oravitz, 56, died at a hospital Wednesday morning, county officials said. 

Two other people had also been hospitalized in stable condition after the blast.

A little before 10:30 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, 911 dispatchers received a call that multiple houses were on fire due to an explosion. Responding officers and firefighters arrived to find "people trapped under the debris," Allegheny County officials reported. 

In all, 57 firefighters were treated on scene for minor issues — many of them for heat exhaustion.

County spokesperson Amie Downs said emergency responders reported people trapped under debris after one house apparently exploded and two others were engulfed in flames. Crews from at least 18 fire departments were working to douse the flames with the help of water tankers from Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation. Plum and county law enforcement, as well as the county fire marshal's office, are investigating, and the state public utilities commission and local utilities were also at the scene. Officials said the investigation will be a "slow and long process" that could last for months or years.

In a news release late Monday, the county said the home where the explosion happened was having "hot water tank issues." The tank was in the basement CBS Pittsburgh reported.

George Emanuele, who lives three houses down from the home that exploded, told the Tribune-Review that he and a neighbor went to the home before the fire got out of control, where they found a man laying in the backyard and dragged him away from the scene.

Rafal Kolankowski, who lives a few houses away, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the explosion broke the windows in his house and knocked him and his wife to the ground. After recovering and checking on his son, he went outside where he said a woman told him another woman had been upstairs and a man was in the basement. The other woman later emerged covered in white ash, but the individual in the basement had not yet exited, he said.

"It's just tragic, I mean, it looks like a war zone — it looks like a bomb hit our neighborhood and it's just unfortunate," Kolankowski said. "I was just with some of the neighbors yesterday, right, and now this happens."

Jeremy Rogers, who lives two doors down, told the paper he had been out shopping when he got an alert about a problem at his house and saw "all sorts of stuff flying around." His family was able to get out safely, and he was allowed to go in quickly to rescue his dog. However, he wasn't able to get the family's three cats and hopes they are all right.

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