Woman killed in Ewing Twp. explosion identified as Linda Cerritelli

Watch report from Action News
March 6, 2014 8:34:42 AM PST
Investigators have identified the woman who was killed in the house explosion Tuesday in Ewing Township, New Jersey, that left seven other people injured and dozens of homes damaged or destroyed.

That woman is Linda Cerritelli, whose body found on a car parked close to the explosion site, investigators said.

Authorities had waited to release her name until an autopsy was complete, identification was made and family members were notified.

Her employer released the following statement to Action News on Wednesday:

"Linda Cerritelli was a valued colleague and our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this incredibly difficult time. We are taking steps to support Linda's family, employees who worked with her, and our neighbors in the Ewing community who are in need of assistance," said Michael Yang, President, Immunology, Janssen Biotech, Inc., Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

Meanwhile, an investigation continues into exactly what sparked the explosion.

The explosion happened shortly before 1:00 p.m. Tuesday at 28 Crockett Lane in Ewing Township, in the South Fork development.

Investigators originally believed that Cerritelli lived in that home but, on Thursday, said she actually lived next door - at 26 Crockett Lane.

It all began around 11:45 a.m. when utility company PSE&G got a call from contractor Henkels and McCoy that a worker had damaged a gas line while working on an electrical problem.

Crews were working on it about an hour later when - for reasons that are still not known - the gas line ignited.

At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Bert Steinmann said the gas line was marked out in the area where a contractor was working. Officials don't know what went wrong.

PSE&G issued a statement saying it would not comment further until the investigation was complete.

Documents show Henkels and McCoy had been fined more than $100,000 by federal safety monitors for problems at two other New Jersey work sites.

The company was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violations involving signaling, warning signs and protection of workers during excavations. The company is contesting the fines.

A total of 55 homes were damaged. Officials say about 15 to 22 homes will be uninhabitable.

However, officials were working out plans to get people back into their homes to retrieve certain possessions, under police escort. Residents were allowed to get any pets left behind on Tuesday night.

Linda and Ernest Scatton were at the scene on Wednesday morning to view their heavily-damaged home.

"We are trying to figure out what to do next. We're staying in a hotel nearby and this is our first look at the house," Linda said.

"We've been married 50 years and we started out with nothing. We figure we're going to start out with nothing again."

Of the seven people who were injured, five were PSE&G workers, while the other two were workers from contactor Henkels and McCoy.

One of those injured has been identified by family members as 49-year-old Anthony Alvin who worked as a backhoe operator.

After the explosion, police shut down roads surrounding the blast site. People who tried to go home were turned away.

The Red Cross and township opened the doors at the West Trenton Fire House as a temporary shelter, but residents were being told to make arrangements for housing.

"We keep putting it into perspective. It's bad, but it could be so much worse," said Matthew Ianni.

A resident of the complex, Bryan Gentry, drove home minutes after he heard an explosion and as he got closer, saw a black smoke cloud. The fire was intensely hot, he said, and he saw one person walking away from the fire who appeared to be stunned.

"It was just unreal," he said, adding that emergency crews responded "really fast."

One resident, Marsha Brown, described the incident on Action News as a "Huge explosion, like a bomb. A house was in flames, gas workers were laying out with legs broken, arms broken, gashes."

"It shook me to my core... Never seen anything like this," Brown continued.

Witness Robert Negrone said "There was debris everywhere, people were out here hurt, people were on the ground. Some were PSE&G workers."

When he approached to see if they needed help, Negrone recalled "They said 'Get away, the gas lines are all connected."

Officials with the Ewing Township Police Department, Mercer County Prosecutor's Office and the state fire marshal are all assisting in the investigation.

If you want to make a donation to the explosion victims, you are urged to call 609-538-7587.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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