PISCATAWAY, NJ -- A Piscataway man is lucky to be alive after an apparent gas explosion and fire leveled his home at the corner of Stelton Road and Hopkinson Avenue early Sunday morning.
The explosion, which was first reported by neighbors at about 4:00 a.m., apparently blew the resident into the street where he was found by Piscataway Police who first responded to the scene, said Mayor Brian Wahler.
The man, who is in his early 50s was the only occupant at the time and was transported to St. Barnabas Medical Center for treatment of 2nd degree burns and other injuries.
His name is being withheld pending notification of his family.
"The force of the blast completely leveled the home which was fully engulfed in flames by the time fire fighters arrived on scene," Wahler said, describing how parts of the house flew into other, surrounding homes, causing fire damage to them as well.
He added that due to the large debris field, "We'll have the building inspectors out here checking the surrounding houses for damage. However, PSEG investigated and determined the system was not compromised."
While the official cause has yet to be determined, Wahler said because of the size and magnitude of the explosion, and that the house was literally blown off of its foundation leads investigators to believe this was a gas explosion.
Units from the New Jersey State Police used a drone to help determine the extent and size of the blast, a critical part in the investigation, said Wahler.
Neighbors reported hearing two loud bangs and several smaller popping sounds in the early morning, pre-dawn hour, waking many from their sleep as their homes shook. One woman road her bike over from the Pleasantview Gardens complex on Carlton Ave., saying she heard and felt the impact from that far away.
Janice, a Hopkinson Avenue neighbor who lives four doors away from the scene said she thought she was hearing fireworks go off when she was awakened to the sounds of a loud bang and several smaller popping noises. "It woke me up from a sound sleep, I thought I was dreaming," she said. "I saw hot ashes hit the roof and then I heard little 'pop, pop, pop' noises here and there."
"It sounded like a bomb went off," agreed her sister, Gayle who was visiting from Florida.
"Everybody within a 12-block radius called headquarters," said Mayor Wahler noting how the situation could have been a lot worse if it had happened while people were commuting to work and school along Stelton Road. "The explosion was so massive, that windows were shattered in other buildings, picture frames were knocked off of people's (walls), they felt like it was a mini earthquake."
Pastor Roy Carroll of the Living Hope Outreach Center, located across the street on Stelton Road was getting ready for Sunday services when he first heard of the explosion from reading a Facebook post. He drove to the church to investigate for himself.
"I was shocked that this has happened in the community and am saddened for the family that has been affected by this disaster," said the former postal worker, noting how it was a familiar address because he used to deliver mail along that route. "We pray that everything works out well."
The Stelton Road area between Tabb and Woodrow Avenues will remain closed for the rest of Sunday while the investigation and cleanup continue.
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