Mt. Pleasant Township, PA – A leak in an underground natural gas line caused a house explosion and fire that injured a Mt. Pleasant Township man, a state police fire marshal reported Saturday.
Henry “Penny” Redepenning Jr., 76, of Clay Avenue, remained in serious condition yesterday at Mercy Hospital, Pittsburgh.
He suffered second-degree burns to his back and arms when gas from an 8-inch steel line located near his house seeped into the structure through a floor drain and caused the explosion and subsequent blaze Thursday, said Trooper Kevin T. Karwatsky, a fire marshal assigned to the Greensburg barracks.
“Redepenning was inside the house when the explosion occurred,” Karwatsky said in a report issued yesterday.
An ongoing investigation by Karwatsky, the state Public Utility Commission and Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania revealed that the line in question contained a “quarter-sized pit, at the center of which was a pinhole-sized leak,” Columbia Gas spokesman Matt Pitzarella said in an interview yesterday.
“The pinhole has been repaired, and (Columbia Gas) crews are still on the scene investigating this particular line of pipe, which supplies gas to most of the Mt. Pleasant area,” Pitzarella said. “After inspection of the line is complete, crews will follow through with partial line replacement.”
No other reports of natural gas odor have surfaced in the area, Pitzarella said. Fifty-five residents of Young Apartments, where Redepenning served as caretaker, and 35 more from 20 nearby homes were evacuated for about three hours after the 7:37 a.m. explosion and fire that leveled Redepenning’s home.
Pitzarella said that other area Columbia Gas customers in that area are safe.
“We’re very proactive with our pipeline integrity; it’s something we take remarkably seriously,” Pitzarella said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family affected, but we want our customers to rest assured, knowing that safety is our top priority.”
A neighbor, Connie Wisniewski, said traffic around the scene has been heavy since Thursday.
“People want to see what happened. I just feel sorry for everyone whose life was disrupted by this, and I hope everything goes OK for him (Redepenning),” Wisniewski said.