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January 19, 2011

The explosion of a gas main in a Philadelphia suburb has left one person dead and five others injured.

After reports of a gas smell in the Tacony neighborhood in Northeast Philly just before 7:30pm Tuesday, employees from the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) and the Philadelphia Fire Department responded to the scene and discovered a water main and 12” gas main break. Firefighters requested police assistance and had residents in a 2-block radius evacuated for safety reasons.

At 8:30pm, as the employees of PGW worked to shut off the gas, the gas main exploded and sent up a fireball fifty feet into the air, damaging vehicles and two nearby buildings.

“Yesterday, our worst fears were realized, when we lost a member of the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) family,” the company said in a press release today. “On behalf of PGW’s officers and the entire PGW family, we extend our sincerest condolences and our continuing support to those involved in this tragic incident. “

According to PGW, three more employees sustained injuries requiring treatment at Temple University Hospital’s Burn Center and one other was treated and released. The hospital is also treating one firefighter for burns caused by the explosion.

NBC Philadelphia identifies the worker killed a 19-year-old Mark Keeley and reports that the three gas workers are in critical condition. The firefighter is in stable condition.

“It just blew up the whole street," resident Jim Campoli told

The gas company eventually shut off the gas and firefighters had contained the situation by about 11:00pm.

According the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), there are more than two million miles of pipelines in the U.S., delivering trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton/miles of liquid petroleum products each year. From 2005 to 2009, there was an average of 282 significant incidences involving pipelines in the U.S., including an average of 51 injuries and 14 fatalities. The PHMSA classifies “significant” as one resulting in fatality or injury requiring hospitalization, incident costing more than $50,000, a release of 5 barrels or more of volatile liquid or 50 barrels of other liquid, or liquid release resulting in unintentional fire or explosion.

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