The house at the center of a mysterious explosion that killed five people in the Pennsylvania mining town of Plum had “hot water tank problems”, fire investigators said – as the three remaining unidentified victims have now been named.
Three buildings were obliterated by the blast just before 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the city, located about 20 miles east of Pittsburgh, while dozens of other structures were damaged.
Terrifying footage showed the moment the house at 141 Rustic Ridge Road completely exploded, setting other properties ablaze.
The house belonged to Heather Oravitz, 51, the city’s community development director, and her husband.
Casey Clontz, 38, was named a victim along with his 12-year-old son, Keegan. On Tuesday, Plum Mayor Harry Schlegel confirmed the other three were Oravitz, Plum Borough manager Michael Thomas, 57, and Kevin Sebunia, 55 years old.
Kevin Sebunia has been described as a devoted family man who leaves behind his wife, Kelly, and daughters, Emily and Abigail
Borough manager Michael Thomas is survived by his wife Jackie and their 16-year-old daughter
Public records show that Paul Oravitz, 56, his wife Heather, 51, and their two children, Taylor and Cole, lived at the property
Oravitz’s husband, Paul, suffered severe burns to most of his body and remained hospitalized Tuesday in critical condition, Schlegel said.
Two other people injured in the blast were treated in a hospital and released.
New doorbell footage shows the moment the house exploded, causing massive damage.
The sequence begins with a quiet, sunny shot of the street, with no sign of movement.
Moments later, the camera shakes violently from the force of the explosion and debris is thrown into the street, before falling to the ground like rain.
The first named victim, Casey Clontz, is survived by his wife Jen and daughter Addie, 10.
The family paid tribute to them: “Their smiles and laughter filled the hearts of their family and friends with joy that can never be replaced.”
Relatives did not say why the father and son were at the Oravitz property, but said it was not uncommon for them to stop by as they were “very friendly” with neighbors.
Public records show Paul Oravitz, 56, his wife Heather, 51, and their two children, Taylor and Cole, lived at the property.
Sebunia has been described as a devoted family man who leaves behind his wife, Kelly, and daughters, Emily and Abigail, according to the local newspaper Live Tribe.
“Her family came first,” her friend Joe Pulcini told the newspaper. “His two daughters came first.
Borough Superintendent Michael Thomas is survived by his wife Jackie and their 16-year-old daughter, Live Tribe said.
The mayor told the newspaper that Thomas recently taught his daughter to drive a shifter, describing him as “probably the best borough manager we’ve had.”
“He was a true professional and I considered him a friend. He ran the borough and ran it well,” Schlegel said.
Casey Clontz, 38, and her son Keegan, 12, lived just four houses from the property that exploded in Plum at 10:22 a.m. on Saturday.
Relatives did not say why the father and son were at the Oratvitzes’ property, but said it was not uncommon for them to stop by as they were “very friendly” with neighbors.
Rescuers said people were trapped under debris when they arrived at the scene.
County spokeswoman Amie Downs said the blast flattened one house and two others were on fire.
Fifty-seven firefighters were treated at the scene for minor issues, an Allegheny County official said.
The cause of the blast is being investigated by the Allegheny County Fire Marshal’s Office, as well as local law enforcement, with officials warning the process would be cautious and take time .
The Office of the Fire Marshal said in a statement Monday that it is aware of the reported hot water tank issues. The agency planned to investigate the cause of the explosion, keeping the hot water tank issue in mind, and “along with all other possibilities,” the statement said.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the development sits on abandoned mining land surrounded by shallow oil and gas wells still in production or abandoned.
Two producing gas wells are about 1,000 feet (305 meters) from the exploded home and a pipeline runs behind the development, but neither structure has been identified as having been involved in the explosion, a reported the newspaper.
Michael Huwar, president of Peoples Gas, said official checks carried out by the company indicated that “our system was working as expected”.
A GoFundMe has been set up for the Oravitz family, who lived to be 141, although it’s unclear if any of them are among the dead
New doorbell footage shows the moment the house exploded causing massive damage
The state’s Utilities Commission said Tuesday it is monitoring the utility’s nearby line integrity testing and interviewing utility employees, first responders and residents, as well as coordinating the collection of evidence from the scene “including service lines and natural gas meters”.
The commission’s safety engineers also oversaw the restoration of electrical service as well as the planning and safe restoration of natural gas service.
A county spokesperson said Tuesday that electrical service was restored by Sunday afternoon to all homes other than the three that were destroyed.