Dozens of Homes Damaged in Deadly NJ Explosion; Cause Probed

Twenty or more homes remained uninhabitable and dozens more damaged Wednesday at a townhouse development where a gas leak led to an explosion a day earlier, killing one person and injuring seven workers, as authorities sought to establish the ignition point but said they may never be able to do so.

Police said an autopsy was underway on a woman whose body was discovered on a car near the site of the explosion, and until it was complete they would not identify her.

Mayor Bert Steinmann said the gas line that was damaged by a contractor for PSE&G was marked out and investigators don't yet know what went wrong, and that it's possible they will never be able to identify the point of ignition.

PSE&G had said that its crews were working on repairs Tuesday following the report of the damage when the explosion happened. The company said Wednesday it would have no further comment until the investigation is complete.

"We don't know yet what caused this accident," the company said in a statement.

It was not clear if the woman who was killed was inside or outside when the house exploded. No one else was believed to be missing.

Authorities have said at least 55 units at the development received some kind of damage.

The development remained littered Wednesday with shingles and plywood and clumps of insulation were clustered in trees.

Blue Bell, Pa.-based Henkels & McCoy, the private contractor that had been working at the site, was replacing electric service to a house that was leveled in the blast, PSE&G said. Though the damage to the pipeline caused a gas leak, the pipeline itself did not explode, the utility said.

The mayor said residents of the homes deemed uninhabitable would be allowed to return to retrieve medicines and other belongings.

Some of the displaced were being sheltered at a fire house, while others were staying with family and friends.

The seven people injured were all PSE&G workers.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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