Residents return after South Philadelphia explosion and collapse


The sounds of children playing dodge ball filled the 400 block of Daly Street in South Philadelphia.

But it was residents who spent the evening moving back into their homes who were feeling like they dodged a catastrophic event.

"It's nice being home even though it's scary right now on the road from that," said Jessica Rowe. "But it always feels better to be home than away at a strange location."

One by one, residents of more than 20 homes returned to this street, many of them so close to the scene where the three row homes collapsed after Monday's explosion.

The two homes still under an evacuation order are 424 and 432 Daly Street, the homes on either side of the three homes that collapsed.

But all other residents have been allowed back in.

Across the street from the collapse site, we found people boarding up their windows that were shattered by the blast.

Residents still have questions about why this happened.

"There were a bunch of conflicting stories like people smelling gas the night before, and they didn't report it," said Kim Killian. "So I'm just wondering why no one would say anything."

But there's also a lot of focus on neighbors who lost everything.

"The biggest concern for everyone should be what do these people who don't have a home to go back to anymore are going to do," said Killian. "I hope they can get all the help they can get."

Meanwhile, thanks to the Red Paw Emergency Relief Team, which rescued a number of pets after the evacuation, animals like Molly the cat were reunited with their owners.

"Molly is home and so are we," said Carol McKenna.

Carol McKenna's late father, a World War 2 veteran, helped her buy this house.

She's just thankful her home is still standing.

"I mean, I felt the house tremor," she said. "But I felt something protecting me, and it had to be the presence of my father and the Lord, it had to be."


Meantime the investigation continues into the explosion and collapse that left eight people injured, one critically.

A contractor was working in a home at 428 Daly Street shortly after 11:00 a.m. Monday, just before the blast. That home, and the homes on either side, were destroyed.

The contractor was rushed to the hospital and remains in critical condition with serious burns. He has not yet been able to talk to investigators.

Initial reports indicated that the contractor was working on a hot water heater. But, at a news conference on Tuesday, Mayor Michael Nutter said all work at the site requiring permits had been completed, including installation of a hot water heater, and only cosmetic work was being done.

As for the cause, inspectors at the scene earlier said a gas leak was to blame for leveling the unoccupied home, which was being remodeled. But officials Tuesday said they couldn't confirm gas was leaking.

Furthermore, Nutter refuted a statement by Councilman Mark Squilla earlier in the day, who indicated the explosion was sparked by the contractor's cigarette.

Nutter said that was simply "speculation," and there would be no comment on the cause until the investigation is complete.

The three homes most heavily damaged will be demolished, Nutter said.

Nutter went on to say that the Department of Licenses and Inspections conducted 14 inspections at the property at 428 Daly Street between the Spring and July 26th. The property owner was on site for the last visit, Nutter said, and no violations were found during those visits.

Meanwhile, gas service is still out for 13 homes on the block. Six families were getting help from the American Red Cross. Three families stayed in a Red Cross house on Monday night, while the others were with relatives.

Among those displaced were Erika Risko-Brannon, her husband and 9-week-old son.

She and the baby were napping in the living room of 429 Daly Street, right across the street, when the blast occurred.

"There was a huge explosion and our windows blew and the windows blew in and he was covered in glass, so I had to grab him, climb over the back of the couch. I ran him upstairs and held him under the faucet in the bathtub to wash all the glass off. He had cuts all over his head and face," she said.

Baby Alister was treated for minor cuts at Jefferson Hospital. He and the other 6 patients treated there have all been released.

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