Body found in rubble of New Jersey condo gas explosion; 7 injured

A body was found in the rubble of a natural-gas-fueled explosion that damaged or destroyed 55 units at a New Jersey condominium complex, police said Tuesday evening.

Seven utility workers were injured in the Ewing Township explosion and fire Tuesday.  The body was found outside a charred structure, Ewing Police Lt. Ron Lunetta said. He declined to give any details about the victim. 

“It’s extensive and where it happened is devastating,” Lunetta said of the destruction that left blackened ruins amid a snow-covered neighborhood. 

Flames, debris and dark smoke soared into the sky of the Trenton suburb about 12:50 p.m., and there were several 911 calls about a large explosion.

Public Service Electric & Gas Co., the energy utility provider for the area, said one of its contractors had been working Tuesday morning to replace an underground electrical line. One of the crew members involved in the digging “struck something,” police said, and alerted PSE&G at 11:45 a.m. Utility workers arrived minutes later, “responding to an odor in the air,” PSE&G construction director Mike Gaffney told reporters.

The cause of the explosion remained under investigation, Gaffney said during a televised news conference Tuesday evening. He said that there was damage to PSE&G facilities but that the gas pipe did not rupture.

Two workers suffered minor injuries. Five others were being held at the hospital for observation, at least two of whom suffered concussions, the utility said. Two of the injured are employees of the contractor, Henkels & McCoy, police said.

The address where the work was taking place, 28 Crockett Lane, is described in property records as a two-story home, part of the South Fork condo community just west of Interstate 95. The home was destroyed, Lunetta said.

“By the grace of God, if it had to happen, at least it happened during the day,” when few people were around, Lunetta said.

Insulation, wood and other debris shot into the sky, damaging neighboring properties. As darkness and below-freezing temperatures arrived, state authorities were still determining which structures in the complex remained habitable. Power to the area remained out, and Lunetta said residents would be barred from the area.

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