STAFFORD TOWNSHIP, N.J. (PIX11) — Two people are fighting severe wounds, thirteen others are injured, and dozens more had been evacuated following a house explosion on the Jersey Shore that was captured on video from a police cruiser’s dashboard camera.
Police and other emergency workers responded quickly to a gas leak that apparently ignited, but many residents complained of an inadequate reaction by first responders.
All that’s left now of 59 Oak Avenue is a pile of debris that recovery crews spent the afternoon and evening salvaging. All of the trees surrounding the lot are full of debris, a clear indication that the structure blew up entirely and instantly.
The impact of the blast was so intense, it shook up everything for blocks. The soffit on the front of Carlos Ricardo’s home fell off from the reverberation.
“It was like a bomb,” Ricardo told PIX11 News. “The whole house shook. It threw me out of my chair. I never experienced anything like this in my life.”
Ricardo lives one block north of the blast. He was never evacuated, but said he didn’t mind. Other neighbors who were affected, felt otherwise.
“It was incredible when it exploded,” said Heather Tatur. “Things were just falling off the wall, off the cabinets. It’s craziness.”
Tatur lives three doors down from the home that blew up, most likely from the gas line leak, according to the local police and the gas utility, New Jersey Natural Gas.
It said a work crew arrived at the scene at 8:55 A.M., in response to a call of a possible gas leak at the site. It was a dangerous situation, that Tatur and other residents said simply got worse.
“A neighbor actually was at Shop Rite and called me,” she told PIX11 News. She said she’d looked online for information, and found out “we were evacuated, but no one came to our home. I think that there was poor communication.”
The actual explosion happened at 10:34, according to witnesses, of whom Ricardo, the neighbor one block away, is one. His pendulum clock was stuck right at the moment of the blast.
“The clock was level,” Ricardo said, as he pointed to it. “[The blast] knocked it off.”
When the home exploded, local fire crews and EMTs were already on scene, having joined the New Jersey Natural Gas workers, in response to the gas leak. Its explosion injured seven utility workers, including the two injured severely. Six firefighters and two EMTs were also injured.
Police were also on scene at the time of the blast. A police cruiser’s dashboard camera captured the explosion on video. It showed the intensity of the blast and the fireball that followed.
All day, New Jersey Natural Gas employees worked to seal off the gas line that exploded on Oak Avenue. Residents there, who were evacuated after the blast, said that they hoped to be back in their homes in time for bed.
They also pointed out that a tornado had blown down their street last spring. It left damage in its wake, but caused no fatalities.
So far, this latest incident does not have any deaths either, for which residents like Dawn Koenig are grateful. She lives about 60 paces from the house that exploded, and was also not evacuated. Still, she said, “It could have been worse… Just thankful you have your friends and family.”