A 24-year-old man was killed and more than a dozen people were injured, including an 11-year-old child, after an explosion at a two-family home in New Jersey Wednesday leveled the structure "like a pancake," authorities said.
One person initially believed missing after the 8 a.m. blast on the second floor of the house on Magnolia Avenue in Elizabeth has been found safe, officials said. Surveillance video captured from a building across the street shows the explosion blow the entire roof off the structure.
Fifteen people were pulled from the home; two of them, including the 11-year-old child, were hospitalized in critical condition with severe burns. A dog was also rescued from the structure. The identity of the man who died hasn't been released; he was pronounced dead at the scene.
A man who lives with his wife and young son in the home to the left of the one that exploded clutched his little boy as he trembled on the sidewalk.
"I was woken up, knocked out of bed," the resident, Wayne Shepperd, said as he choked back tears. "I didn't know what had happened. I thought a plane had crashed."
Shepperd, who said his eyes were burning but that he was otherwise OK. He said his family lost everything.
Duane Bourne, a spokesman with Elizabethtown Gas, said a preliminary investigation found no indication the blast was gas-related. But the mayor of Elizabeth said that several people had reported smelling gas near the new-construction structure before the explosion.
Shepperd said he smelled a faint gas odor Tuesday night and regrets not reporting it. He said he went to bed and "woke up to a nightmare."
The fire went out on its own. Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage and Elizabeth Fire Chief Thomas McNamara said that fact may have helped prevent the loss of more life and damage to neighboring buildings, which stand about 10 to 12 feet apart.
Three structures will need to be demolished, officials say. Several residents nearby left their houses after the blast, and at least one home had its windows blown in by the explosion. At least 30 people were placed in hotels Wednesday as authorities worked to secure the area.
Photos posted to social media from the scene show the home reduced to rubble.
The explosion was near one of the runways at Newark-Liberty International Airport, but no changes to flights have been reported.