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Massive explosion in Pittsburgh area home kills man and woman; cause under investigation

CRESCENT, Pa. (AP) — A massive explosion killed two people and destroyed a house in the Pittsburgh area near the Ohio River, authorities said Tuesday.

Aerial images from the scene in Crescent Township in the northwest Pittsburgh suburbs showed smoking ruins with the structure reduced to rubble and some large pieces lodged in trees above. Allegheny County emergency dispatchers said the blast was reported shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The blast was “severe, absolutely extreme,” and “You could feel it in your chest," said Chief Andrew Tomer of the Crescent Township fire department. It was heard and felt throughout Crescent and nearby townships and even across the river. Tomer and others at the fire department immediately saw “a column of white smoke up in the air followed by a thick column of black smoke," he said.

The explosion “completely leveled” the home, with arriving units reporting “fire throughout the foundation” and fire along the hillside, Tomer said. The blast also damaged at least two other homes, he said. A private gas well and two propane tanks on the scene were secured, he said.

A man and woman were found dead at the scene, he said. The county medical examiner’s office will confirm their identities and determine the cause and manner of death.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation by the Allegheny County fire marshal's office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The county's emergency services department said the scene “is in a remote location and we’re asking everyone to avoid the area in order to allow responders access.”

On Aug. 12, a blast in the borough of Plum about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away in the same county killed six people and destroyed three homes. Authorities said the cause was under investigation, but the explosion occurred inside one of the homes, ruling out an outside cause including wells, pipelines and other utilities.