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The home at the center of a mystery explosion which killed five people in the Pennsylvania mining town of Plum had ‘hot water tank issues’, fire investigators have said – as the three remaining unidentified victims have now been named.
Three buildings were obliterated by the blast just before 10.30am Saturday in the town, which is around 20 miles east of Pittsburgh, while dozens more structures were damaged.
Terrifying footage showed the moment the home on 141 Rustic Ridge Road completely blew apart, causing other properties to go up in flames.
The home was owned by Heather Oravitz, 51, the town’s community development director, and her husband.
Casey Clontz, 38, was named as a victim along with his 12-year-old son, Keegan. On Tuesday, Plum Mayor Harry Schlegel confirmed the other three as Oravitz, Plum Borough Manager Michael Thomas, 57, and Kevin Sebunia, 55.
Kevin Sebunia was described as a devoted family man who leaves behind his wife, Kelly, and daughters, Emily and Abigail
Borough manager Michael Thomas leaves behind 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 over most of his body and remained hospitalized Tuesday in a critical condition, Schlegel said.
Two more people injured in the blast were treated at a hospital and released.
New doorbell footage shows the moment the home blew apart, causing widespread damage.
The footage begins with a quiet sunny shot of the street, with no signs of movement.
Moments later, the camera shakes violently from the force of the blast, and debris is launched over the street, before falling to the ground like rain.
The first named victim, Casey Clontz, leaves behind his wife Jen, and daughter Addie, 10.
The family said in a tribute to them: ‘Their smiles and laughter filled their family’s and friends’ hearts with joy that can never be replaced.’
Relatives did not say why the father and son were at the Oravitz’s property, but explained it wasn’t uncommon for them to stop by as they were ‘very friendly’ with neighbors.
Public records show that Paul Oravitz, 56, his wife Heather, 51, and their two children, Taylor and Cole, lived at the property.
Sebunia was described as a devoted family man who leaves behind his wife, Kelly, and daughters, Emily and Abigail, according to local paper Trib Live.
‘His family came before anything,’ his friend Joe Pulcini told the paper. ‘His two girls came before everything.’
Borough manager Michael Thomas leaves behind his wife Jackie and their 16-year-old daughter, Trib Live said.
The mayor told the paper Thomas had recently taught his daughter how to drive a stick shift, describing him as ‘probably the best borough manager we 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 his son Keegan, 12, lived just four houses away from the property which exploded on Saturday in Plum at 10.22am
Relatives did not say why the father and son were at the Oratvitz’s property, but explained it wasn’t uncommon for them to stop by as they were ‘very friendly’ with neighbors
Emergency responders said people were trapped under debris when they arrived to the scene.
County spokesperson Amie Downs said the blast leveled 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 explosion is under investigation by the Allegheny County fire marshal’s office, along with local law enforcement, with officials warning that the process would be careful and would take time.
The fire marshal’s office said in a statement Monday that it was aware of the reported hot water tank issues. The agency planned to investigate the cause of the blast, with the hot water tank issue in mind, and ‘along with any and all other possibilities,’ the statement said.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the development is on abandoned mine land surrounded by shallow still-producing or abandoned oil and gas wells.
Two producing gas wells are within about 1000 feet (305 meters) of the home that exploded and a pipeline runs behind the development, but none of those structures have been identified as having been involved in the blast, the newspaper reported.
Michael Huwar, president of Peoples Gas, said official checks by the company indicated that ‘our system was operating as designed.’
A GoFundMe has been set up for the Oravitz family, who lived at 141, though it is unclear if any of them are among the dead
New doorbell footage shows the moment the home blew apart, causing widespread damage
The state Public Utility Commission said Tuesday that it has been monitoring integrity tests of nearby lines by the utility and interviewing utility employees, first responders and residents as well as coordinating the collection of evidence at the scene ‘including natural gas service lines and meters.’
Safety engineers of the commission also have been monitoring restoration of electric 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.