Officials: Row house explosion caused by crack in gas main

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An explosion that left two people dead and destroyed five row houses in Philadelphia last month was caused by a crack in a gas main, officials announced Thursday.

The investigation by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission into the underlying cause of the crack in the 92-year-old natural gas main that also forced the evacuation of 60 residents is ongoing, Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said at a news conference.

Before the announcement, city officials had mostly declined to publicly comment on what caused the Dec. 19 fire and explosion. But the commissioner said that by Dec. 23, Philadelphia fire marshals had determined a crack in the gas line, causing the natural gas to leak, and leading to the blast.

The state commission’s in-depth investigation is now “exploring the cause and circumstances surrounding this incident, along with whether there are any violations of state or federal pipeline safety regulations," according to a statement from the agency.

There was no indication the pipe was leaking prior to the explosion and officials said no one reported an odor, according to Douglas Moser, Philadelphia Gas Works executive vice president and acting COO.