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Suspected Gas Explosion Reduces Washington County Home To Rubble, 5 Injured

Keith Srakocic
First responders gather near the area where an explosion believed to have been caused by a gas leak, reduced a western Pennsylvania home to a pile of rubble and sent at least four people to hospitals.

An explosion believed to have been caused by a gas leak reduced a western Pennsylvania home to a pile of rubble and injured five people, authorities said.

The blast just before 4 p.m. Wednesday near a high school in North Franklin Township was widely felt around the area, the (Washington) Observer-Reporter reported.

Washington County Director of Public Safety Jeff Yates told the paper that three township firefighters, the homeowner and a neighbor were injured. Officials said none of the injuries appeared life-threatening.

Firefighters had been in the area investigating a gas smell in the neighborhood before the blast, township supervisor Bob Sabot said.

Christi Frauenholz, of Canton, Ohio, whose husband was working at the nearby Washington & Jefferson College, told the paper that she and others "were about knocked off our feet."

Rushing to the scene where a plume of smoke was rising, and fearing a plane had crashed, she found a woman who had escaped sitting on a neighbor's steps, "bleeding from the ears and head" but able to walk to an ambulance, she said.

"She was in her house and smelled gas," Frauenholz said. "She went outside, and as soon as she opened the garage door, (the house) exploded."

Frauenholz reported seeing doors and windows knocked from neighboring homes and insulation in treetops 35 feet (10.7 meters) above the ground.

Eleanor Rea was doing housework up the lane and reported suddenly being on the floor by the blast. She and her husband, also 84, were unhurt, but the blast shattered windows, knocked a door to a deck out of its frame, yanked down a chandelier and caved in parts of the roof, she told the paper.

Gas service was cut to about 60 customers "out of an abundance of caution," but there was no reason to believe there was danger to other customers, Columbia Gas said.

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