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'We Are Deeply Sorry': Columbia Gas Takes Responsibility For Washington County Explosion

NORTH FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP (KDKA) -- Columbia Gas is taking responsibility for a large explosion that leveled a home and sent five people to the hospital in Washington County.

The gas company held a news conference Thursday afternoon to update the public on the latest developments. They say the investigation could take some time.

"Our customers deserve safe, reliable delivery of natural gas," President and COO of Columbia Gas Mike Huwar said. "We failed to deliver on this mission, and for that we are deeply sorry."

WATCH: Columbia News Conference --

BREAKING NEWS: Columbia Gas is holding a news conference following yesterday's natural gas explosion in North Franklin Township. MORE:

Posted by KDKA-TV | CBS Pittsburgh on Thursday, August 1, 2019


According to Columbia Gas, work was being done on an ongoing project in the area and the home where the explosion happened was on a different street from all the other homes associated with the project.

"While our processes are designed to catch such anomalies; unfortunately, the combination of our review process, including our initial project design process and our additional secondary field survey that we completed, we did not identify that fact that the home was connected to the section of gas main that was being upgraded," Huwar said.

Because of that, a necessary pressure regulator was never added to the home, resulting in the blast.

"When the new system was engaged, and because the pressure regulator was not added, the elevated pressure lead to a leak, which caused the explosion," Huwar said.

Officials with North Franklin Township say they have filed a cease and desist order to Columbia Gas, saying no work will be permitted in the township until further notice. They also say they've lost trust in the company, and are demanding they pay for cleanup and repairs to the area where the explosion happened.

"We feel we have been used and abused... and our residents are confused," said township representative Bob Sabot.

WATCH: Township News Conference --

BREAKING NEWS: North Franklin Township officials are holding a news conference following yesterday's house explosion. MORE:

Posted by KDKA-TV | CBS Pittsburgh on Thursday, August 1, 2019


Township officials say they want compensation for police departments and firefighters.

"Columbia Gas has been essentially shut down in North Franklin Township until they can make amends for [the explosion]," Sabot said.

A township meeting will be held Aug. 13 where they are asking Columbia Gas to bring a comprehensive plan on how they will begin the process of picking up the pieces.

Officials said five people were injured, including three firefighters and the homeowner, Debbie Braden.

The explosion happened Wednesday afternoon in the 100 block of Park Lane in North Franklin Township.

"My captain and I were walking away from the house and were probably 30 to 40 feet from the house when it exploded," North Franklin VFD Chief Dave Bane said. "He was knocked to the ground. I was thrown forward."

The blast knocked down doors, blew pictures off walls, caused a lot of structural damage and demolished a home.

Neighbors still can't believe the damage one day after the blast.

The home where it happened is leveled, all that's left is some of the foundation and debris scattering a hillside.

"I was on a chair at the back window in the other bedroom, and it just BOOM, and we just got done cleaning the window," neighbor Eleanor Rea said.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Rea and her husband, Gaylord, put the debris in trash bags Thursday morning, alongside a pile of shattered windows.

"He got hit, that guy got hit, that house over there you can see the basement windows boarded up, her bedroom windows boarded up," said Gaylord Rea.

The couple's glass sliding doors were blown into the back bedroom, the dining room ceiling collapsed and a piece of the kitchen combusted into tiny pieces as well.

KDKA's Meghan Schiller Reports:

At first, the couple didn't know what happened.

"Maybe about five or six minutes, because we went through our house and seen all the damage and we were so shocked," said Gaylord.

Columbia Gas said the owner of the home where the explosion happened called 911 moments before the explosion to report the smell of gas. She has been released from the hospital.

Sarah Barczyk, of Columbia Gas, said they immediately turned off the gas to 60 customers in the area and will continue work to restore service.

"When they do come to the home, they do have to go in and perform a safety check and relight those appliances," she said.

For those who are not home when they come, a door hanger will be left with a number to reach the company. That number is 1-888-460-4332, or visit Columbia Gas at this link.

An adult, 18 or older, must be home to allow the workers in. Columbia Gas says all their workers and contractors wear ID badges with their photo.

All the firefighters injured have been released from the hospital, including the North Franklin Fire Company chief.

Columbia Gas says anyone in the area of yesterday's explosion with damage to their homes can submit a claim with the company.

The company also announced Wednesday evening that natural gas has been restored to impacted customers, with only a few exceptions.

Homeowners are asked to call 800-445-5846.

Meanwhile, the company says they are reviewing and enhancing their procedures and survey processes to prevent any future similar incident.

Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.

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