Federal investigators probe Lower Township house explosion

LOWER TOWNSHIP, N.J. - November 8, 2013

The massive blast happened around 4:00 p.m. at a home on the 200 block of East Atlantic Avenue in the Villas section of Lower Township.

James and Evelyn McCarty, both 67 years old are hospitalized in critical condition with non-life threatening injuries.

James was in the shower and Evelyn was in the living room when their house was destroyed by a tremendous explosion Thursday afternoon.

Neighbors came running to carry them to safety.

"God was on their side," said Connie Johnson, Cape May County Fire Marshal.

"Some people, without regard for their own safety, were just trying to help people they knew and didn't know. It didn't matter, they were there and we're grateful as a community," said Mayor Michael Beck.

A family friend says they are a generous couple, even in the face of tragedy.

"When the next door went in, she said she was on fire. She said, 'Leave me and go get my husband,' and she would just do that for him, said Susan Carlson, friend.

The McCartys were flown to Crozer-Chester Burn Center. Her sister says Evelyn has two broken legs and James has burns over 15 percent of his body.

Federal, state and local investigators spent the day on Friday digging through the debris. They've narrowed the cause to a gas leak - either natural gas, or propane.

The entire block has been hooked up to a new natural gas line.

The McCartys were in the process of switching their appliances over to the new line and had only a space heater hooked up.

The rest of the appliances were still running off a propane tank. There were two sources of gas being used in the house.

"It's evident that one of those was the source of the explosion. We have to determine the ignition source for that gas and where it was leaking from," said Johnson.

The explosion was triggered in a crawl space near the kitchen, but how, still remains unclear.

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