Hot Water Heater Issues Indicated Before House Explosion that Killed 5, Injured 3 in Plum Borough, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania


In Plum Borough, Pennsylvania, five people were killed and a dozen homes damaged in an explosion that authorities say was not caused by a gas leak. YouTube Tips ⓘ

A house explosion on a hillside neighborhood near an abandoned mine and active natural gas wells in Plum Borough about 15 miles northeast of downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania killed five people and injured three people — one of them critically. The explosion occurred Saturday morning, August 12, 2023.

Allegheny County 9-1-1 received numerous calls about 10:22 a.m. Saturday, August 12, 2023 reporting a house explosion from the neighborhood near the intersection of Rustic Ridge Drive and Brookside Drive area in Plum Borough, Pennsylvania. Details in addition to the house explosion included several houses on fire and damaged, and reports that individuals may have been trapped in the impacted homes.

Police, firefighters and paramedics arrived on scene immediately, and some personnel reported that there were people trapped under debris, and that it appeared as if one house had exploded, and two others were engulfed in fire. The house explosion occurred at 141 Rustic Ridge Drive. Water tankers were assigned from both Allegheny County and Westmoreland County along with 18 different fire departments. Allegheny County’s Emergency Management and Fire Marshals also responded to the scene.

Three individuals were transported to local hospitals. Two were treated and released and one remains in the hospital in critical condition, according to Allegheny County officials. Further updates on that person’s condition will not be available due to privacy laws.

Emergency responders identified five people as being unaccounted for and began rescue efforts once the scene was safe. Five bodies were recovered from the scene – four adults and one adolescent. Identification of the individuals deceased was determined by the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner according to protocols.

Plum Mayor Harry Schlegel said that Community Development Director Heather Oravitz, 51, and Plum Borough Manager Michael Thomas, 57, were killed in the house explosion. Three others who lived in the neighborhood were also killed: Kevin Sebunia, 55; Casey Clontz, 38 (in house next-door); and Clontz’s 12-year-old son, Keegan Clontz (in house next-door), according to an Associated Press news article published Tuesday afternoon, August 15, 2023. The Associated Press article also indicated that owners Heather Oravitz and her husband were having issues with the hot water tank

Identification is expected to take some time as it will involve use of dental records and, potentially, DNA for formal identification.

— Allegheny County Government

The Allegheny County Fire Marshal’s office is the lead investigator for determining cause and origin of the fire and explosion and will be working with local, state and federal partners as appropriate. That process will be involved and is expected to take quite some time, even months or years.

— Allegheny County Government

A total of three structures were destroyed and at least a dozen more were damaged from the explosion, according to Allegheny County Government officials.

The immediate neighborhood of Rustic Ridge had all utilities shut off due to safety concerns. As of this afternoon, electricity has been restored to all but the immediate area. The PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) and People’s National Gas are working with local officials on a plan for restoration of gas service and will be communicating directly with impacted residents. Individuals are still encouraged to stay away from the area unless they live there

Residents impacted by the explosion who need housing or resources are being directed to Renton VFD, located at 1996 Old Mine Road. Additionally, the county’s Human Services has set up a helpline for anyone experiencing mental distress. Individuals needing help can call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.

Rustic Ridge Drive map with road closure outlined (Map data ©2023 Google maps)
Rustic Ridge Drive map with road closure outlined (Map data ©2023 Google maps).

Heart-stopping video captured a massive house explosion in Plum, Pennsylvania. The blast killed five people and destroyed three homes. Casey Clontz and his 12-year-old son were found dead in the wreckage of the house next door. In a statement, their grieving relatives say “Their smiles and laughter filled their family’s and friends’ hearts with joy that can never be replaced.” Inside Edition’s Steven Fabian has more. A GoFundMe page was created to help the families impacted by the explosion. YouTube Tips ⓘ



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