Plum house explosion: Cause of deadly blast that killed 5, including child, unknown


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Cleanup continues after death toll rises to 5 in home explosion in Plum


Cleanup continues after death toll rises to 5 in home explosion in Plum

02:18

PLUM, Pa. (KDKA) — Cleanup continued Monday after heartache hit the Plum Borough community when a normal morning took a terrifying turn as a home in the Rustic Ridge community exploded.

5 killed in deadly blast

Five people were killed, three nearby homes were destroyed, and a dozen other homes were damaged in the blast on Saturday.

Those five victims were recovered from the scene of the explosions, consisting of four adults and one child. The medical examiner’s office has yet to release the identities of the victims. 

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Kevin Sebunia was one of the five killed in a house explosion in Plum on Aug. 12, 2023.

(Photo: Provided)


Emily Sebunia said her dad Kevin Sebunia was one of the five killed. She said he was always one to lend a hand whenever anyone needed help without ever expecting anything in return. She believes her dad was most likely doing just that when he died.

The blast also killed 38-year-old Casey Clontz and his 12-year-old son, Keegan. The two loved hunting and fishing, and the family said the 12-year-old was his father’s shadow. 

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Casey Clontz and his 12-year-old son, Keegan, were among the five killed in a house explosion in Plum on Aug. 12, 2023.

Provided


“This is certainly a sad day and sad time not just for the folks in Plum but all the folks in the community and in this region,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.  

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A home exploded along Rustic Ridge Drive in Plum Borough on Aug. 12th, 2023.

KDKA / Sky Eye 2


The blast sent shockwaves through the area, with nearby windows and doors blown off when the home along Rustic Ridge Drive exploded.

It didn’t take long before the two homes on both sides also caught fire.

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A home exploded along Rustic Ridge Drive in Plum Borough on Aug. 12th, 2023.

KDKA


Plum Borough Police Chief Lanny Conley said three other people were taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries. Two of those individuals have been released from the hospital while one remains in critical condition. 

Chief Conley said that 57 firefighters were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Peoples Gas President Michael Huwar said over the weekend that crews immediately began checking the area for leakage, including smell checks and checks underground and in the air, and said that early reports show that the system was operating as designed. 

Following the explosion, utilities were shut off due to safety concerns, but electricity has been restored to all but the immediate area surrounding the blast.

Any resident who has questions about gas service in the neighborhood can find updates here

On Sunday night, an officer monitoring the site noticed that a hotspot had begun smoking. Fire crews arrived and spent an hour spraying down the debris. 

Around 10pm Sunday – we noticed the officer monitoring the site jump onto the rubble with his flashlight. We then saw smoke coming from the debris. Fire crews pulled up and spent about an hour hosing it down.@KDKA #Plum #explosion pic.twitter.com/nex9RtHXo3

— Lauren Linder (@lauren_linder) August 14, 2023

Investigation underway

The Allegheny County Fire Marshal’s Office is leading the investigation into the cause and origin of the fire and explosion and the process is expected to take some time. 

Allegheny County officials say that the investigation could take months or even years. 

“This investigation may last for months if not years so please keep that in mind. It’s a slow process,” Allegheny County Emergency Service Deputy Director Steve Imbarlina said.  

In a release late Monday, the county said the home where the explosion happened was having “hot water tank issues.” The tank was in the basement.

“ACFM will investigate that information along with any and all other possibilities during their processes that may explain what occurred,” the release said.

Crews spent Monday going through the rubble. Heavy equipment went through the destroyed houses before the rain moved in. Crews with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Allegheny County offices, and utility crews investigated.  

“In the meantime, we are bringing all of our resources to bear to help the Allegheny County fire marshal,” Peoples Gas President Mike Huwar said.  

To this point, there are holds on the three destroyed properties. This means nothing will be done to them, and any demolition would have to be approved by the borough.    

Helping the helpers

Despite this tragedy causing so much heartache, the community has been stepping up to help one another and first responders, donating things like food and water. 

But, Allegheny County is asking people to avoid the area if they have no reason to be there. 

“Police and other borough staff have had to respond to ask that individuals leave the area. We again reiterate – If you do not live in the area and do not have any reason to be there, please stay away from the area,” the county said. 

Plum Borough School District

The superintendent, Dr. Rick Walsh, released this statement on Monday morning.

“It is with great sorrow that I write about the devastating incident that occurred in our Rustic Ridge neighborhood. The house explosion resulted in the tragic loss of life felt across our community. On behalf of the entire school district, I want to express my deepest sympathies and offer support to our school community affected by this tragedy.

“Support services will be available to our students, staff, and community members to ensure that anyone who needs assistance can find comfort and guidance. We will open our doors for healing and reflection, where memories can be shared and celebrated. It is our collective responsibility to ensure the emotional well-being of our students and families as we navigate this unimaginable tragedy. Our Crisis Intervention Team, comprised of district Counselors, Psychologists, and Social Workers in collaboration with Turtle Creek Valley Community Services, will be available on Monday and Tuesday, August 14 & 15 from 10-2 at Plum Senior High School Library.

“If assistance is needed to help your child or answer their questions, we would like to direct you to the Parent Resources page on our Special Education and Pupil Services website. Resources include Grief: Helping Handout for School and Home, Reacting to Grief, and other resources to help support families.

“During times like these, we must lean on one another for comfort and strength. Let us continue to extend a helping hand to the affected families, offering our support, condolences, and assistance in any way possible. Together, we can create an environment of compassion and unity that will help us heal.”

“It was the loudest sound that I’ve ever heard in my entire life.”

People who live along Rustic Ridge Drive say that when the explosion happened, it was the loudest sound they’ve ever heard.

“It was scary, it was very scary. It was like hell on Earth over there,” said resident George Emanuele.

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Ring doorbell video shows the moment a home along Rustic Ridge Drive in Plum Borough exploded on Aug. 12th, 2023.

Ring.com


RELATED STORIES:

History of house explosions in Plum

This is not the first time a home has exploded in Plum Borough. Just last year in April, a home on Hialeah Drive was leveled.

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Five people were taken to the hospital following a house explosion along Hialeah Drive in Plum Borough on April 22, 2022.

KDKA Photojournalist Bryce Lutz


In 2008, less than a half mile away, another home exploded on Mardi Gras Drive. 

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the explosion in 2008 was caused after a 2-inch gas line was hit in 2003. Investigators determined that it eventually failed after it corroded.

There also was another explosion in 1996 where natural gas was determined to be the cause. 

Resources available for those in need

The Renton Volunteer Fire Department remains open to provide resources and supplies.

Words cannot express the gratitude at the outpouring of support for the Rustic Ridge tragedy Saturday. From the citizens…

Posted by Renton Volunteer Fire Department on Sunday, August 13, 2023

For anyone who may need grief counseling or support, you can call 1-800-985-5990 or you can text TalkWithUs to 66746.

In addition to those resources, the Plum Senior High School will be open both Monday and Tuesday, offering support services for students, staff, and community members. 

The borough says that the doors will open for healing and reflection where memories can also be shared and celebrated. That will take place in the school’s library from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 

Plum boys high school soccer team hosting fundraiser for Rustic Ridge

Plum porch boards made by the Wooden Loft are being sold with all profits benefiting Rustic Ridge families. For more information, click here.

Bishop to host prayer service Tuesday

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said Bishop David Zubik will hold a prayer service for the Plum community on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Saint John the Baptist Church in Plum.

Everyone is invited to attend.

Plum Borough cancels planned events

In the wake of the tragic deadly explosion, borough leaders say all events that were planned for Monday have been canceled, including the city council meeting, public hearing, and Monday Market. 

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