After The Explosion: 5 Dead, 2 Injured, Investigation Continues

After The Explosion: 5 Dead, 2 Injured, Investigation Continues

POTTSTOWN PA – Law enforcement and emergency investigators are unlikely to announce until sometime next week the cause of a devastating Thursday (May 26, 2022) night explosion at 453 Hale St. in the borough. It killed five people and seriously injured two others, according a Pottstown Police Department statement.

“The investigation regarding this incident is still ongoing and will continue,” the department’s Friday (May 27) notice said. “Borough officials do not expect to provide additional public updates until investigators are ready to release details regarding the cause of the explosion,” it added.

Police have identified the victims, four of them children, as Alana Wood, age 13; Jeremiah White, 12; Nehemiah White, 10; Tristan White, 8; and Francine White, 67. Two adults survived the blast, but as of Friday afternoon remained “in critical condition at regional trauma centers,” police noted. They were identified as Eugene White, 44, and Kristina Matuzsan, 32.

After The Explosion: 5 Dead, 2 Injured, Investigation Continues

Two homes nearest the intersection of Hale Street and Butler Avenue were obliterated in the explosion (at top). Several others were damaged; in at least four cases, so severely that officials spray-painted orange warning markers on their exteriors, posted signs that the buildings were uninhabitable (above), and cordoned them off with bright yellow tape.

The corner and surrounding neighborhood remained active early Friday evening with firefighters, PECO Energy work crews (below), police patrols, and onlookers. The latter gathered in the street and on its corners, talking quietly among themselves and taking cell phone photos of the destruction.

After The Explosion: 5 Dead, 2 Injured, Investigation Continues

Skies grew dark and became even more heavily clouded as the work progressed. Rain and possible thunderstorms were expected Friday night, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly NJ reported. There was a 70-percent chance of precipitation through Saturday (May 28) afternoon, it said, accompanied by light west to southwest winds and a potential for small hail.

At one point a local taxi occupied by a driver and four other individuals pulled up to the corner to take in the scene. The group watched the activity for about 7 minutes, as timed by a reporter, then the cab turned and slowly drove away.

On a corner of Hale and Butler a woman stood silently, taking photos and shaking her head slowly. “We’re losing too many babies,” she said of the children who died, and in conversation volunteered that she had been a teacher for more than two decades. “It hurts when you lose just one,” she added somberly as she stared at the housing rubble, and again shook her head.

After The Explosion: 5 Dead, 2 Injured, Investigation Continues

As she spoke a Pottstown firefighter could be seen carefully walking across parts of the debris, carrying a small diameter fire hose. He began spraying water (above) into portions of the downed structure that lay roughly 15 to 20 feet away from where he stood. Fire officials previously told media outlets they were attempting to control and extinguish smoking hotspots buried several feet deep.

Vehicles that had been parked along Butler Avenue (below) when the explosion occurred remained largely untouched afterward. Dust, shards of building timbers, and other debris covered their roofs and engine hoods.

After The Explosion: 5 Dead, 2 Injured, Investigation Continues

Reporting elsewhere

Some regional media outlets are still trying to stay abreast of the explosion story, and published articles, photos and videos as recently as Friday night at 11:30. The Post compiled a linked list of them for its readers’ use, below:

Photos by The Post