Multiple rescue agencies participated in the search for gas station owner Joseph Vigilante as one of his injured employees recovered in the hospital.
Vigilante was trapped after a gas tank exploded at Liberty Gas on the 1200 block of Bristol Pike around 4:50 p.m. Tuesday. Employee Frank Tomasiello was rescued and airlifted to a local hospital.
Bensalem Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said earlier Wednesday that crews were having a difficult time reaching Vigilante because several feet of debris was in the way.
The recovery crews were split into three, two-man teams, and spent the afternoon battling pitch-black conditions and dangerous crumbling debris underground until Vigilante's body was recovered.
Tomasiello's longtime partner, Shirley Coates, told Action News he remains in critical condition with burns over 45 percent of his body.
"They told my son he will be there for two to three weeks at least. But at least he is alive," Coates said.
Coates said Tomasiello is a carpet installer during the week and worked at the gas station on the weekend as a cashier. She said Tomasiello was called Tuesday afternoon to come in and help clean the vaults, which surrounds the 8,000 gallon underground fuel tank, with one of the owners.
"I knew Joe the owner. He was such a nice man, nice man," Coates said.
Rescue crews worked late into the night Tuesday with specialized equipment working to pump the gas out of the 40 to 50-foot long tank. Sponheimer said two other tanks were intact.
Officials had to cut power to the neighborhood surrounding the Liberty Gas Station. Ten homes in the area were evacuated for safety precautions and observers were moved back from the scene as concerns of harmful fumes arose. Bristol Pike was shut down but reopened twelve hours later.
Investigators believe Tomeisello was on the surface at the top of a ladder and Vigilante was in the vault when the explosion occurred.
The impact of the explosion was so strong it could be felt blocks away.
"We were sitting on the couch in the living room and all of the sudden the couch started to vibrate and you heard the explosion," said Lisa McCaed of Bensalem. " I was thinking that a car had hit a property or something, but I never imagined that."
The cause of the explosion has not been determined.
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