Crews Spend Hours Trying to Rescue Worker Trapped After Blast at Bensalem Gas Station

After hours of trying to make contact with a worker trapped after a blast at a gas station in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, crews turned to rescue mission into a recovery effort.

A 12,000 gallon underground propane tank exploded around 5 p.m. Tuesday, rocking the Liberty Gas station along the 1200 block of Bristol Pike, fire officials said.

Two people were injured in the blast, Bensalem Township Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said. One man was rescued and rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition with serious burns, Harran said.

A second man was trapped under heavy concrete blown apart in the blast. First responders spent 12 hours trying to make contact with him.

Two firefighters were lowered into the hole, but were pulled back because of lingering gas fumes. Around 5 a.m. Wednesday, crews stopped trying to rescue the man because gas levels were too high, firefighters said.

“The fumes are extremely too high for us to put our personnel underground, so at this point we’re pulling them all back,” Bensalem Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Rob Sponheimer said. “We’re gonna keep ventilating the area… for the next few hours, and then we’re gonna get our crews back out here later this morning to continue the recovery effort.”

It appears the men were carrying out work on an underground tank when the explosion happened.

“Just looking out over at the gas station I saw the giant ball of flame come up higher than the awning,” Robert Smith said. “Something went up in the air and came down about ten seconds later.” 

Harran said there’s a concern that a second explosion could happen. Heavy machinery arrived that lifted away large, broken concrete slabs. Crews continued to work late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning to rescue the worker.

Firefighters from Philadelphia and other surrounding towns responded to help.

Ten families who live nearby were forced to evacuate to safer ground but were allowed back into their homes overnight.

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