Image: Firefighters in New Jersey
Ray Stubblebine  /  Reuters
Firefighters try to extinguish a gas explosion that ripped through a Bergenfield, N.J., apartment building on Tuesday.
updated 12/14/2005 10:47:47 AM ET 2005-12-14T15:47:47

David Coradin was in the shower when an explosion ripped through his apartment building, blowing out his front door and shattering his windows.

When he got outside, Coradin heard an elderly woman screaming that her husband was trapped inside the apartment closest to the blast.

“I wanted to go in and look for him but there was no way,” he said.

The Tuesday morning explosion and fire killed three people and injured five after construction workers hit a gas line, authorities said. Four others were unaccounted for, but it was unclear if they had gone elsewhere or were trapped in the rubble.

“The word is ’believe.’ I still believe and I still hope,” Mayor Richard Bohan said.

The names of the victims were not released.

Richy Harps was in his apartment in the building next door when the blast hit, causing most of the three-story building’s roof and about a third of the second floor to collapse.

“I was listening to music at the time and I heard an extremely loud explosion, which literally levitated me off the ground,” he said. “Everyone was running outside clutching their clothes. It’s a horror.”

Search teams found two bodies in the afternoon; a third was found in the evening, Mayor Richard Bohan said.

Pinched gas line blamed
Officials said preliminary investigations showed that a pit dug by construction workers who were trying to remove an underground oil tank collapsed and pinched a gas line just before 9 a.m.

Utility crews were sent to the scene after residents nearby reported the odor of gas. Thirty minutes later, the explosion shook the area.

About 400 firefighters and emergency workers fought the blaze in subfreezing temperatures and evacuated several nearby homes.

Bergenfield Fire Chief John Pampaloni was on the scene because of the gas leak when the explosion occurred. He said he had not ordered the building evacuated because he didn’t believe it was a dangerous situation.

The five injured were taken to hospitals. One of them, a woman, was reported in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns.

The mayor said about 12 families were left homeless. Bergenfield, with a population of 26,000, is located six miles northwest of New York City.

“Nobody has anything left,” Bohan said, urging residents to make donations of clothing and other items to the victims.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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