PHILADELPHIA – A row house collapse Monday severely damaged neighboring houses and hurt eight people, including a baby and a critically injured contractor.
The collapse happened shortly after 11 a.m. at an unoccupied home being remodeled in the middle of a south Philadelphia street lined with connected two-story brick homes.
The contractor was working in the basement of the destroyed home, police said. Investigators were trying to figure out what happened, but neighbors reported hearing an explosion.
Bricks showered onto the small street and nearly covered a car parked out front. The houses on either side of the destroyed home were standing but badly damaged, with large sections of their masonry walls gone.
Rescue crews combed through the rubble for victims. They said early Monday afternoon that the search was complete and no one was unaccounted for.
Nearby gas service was turned off and the area evacuated. Residents with nowhere to go were taken to a nearby school, which was being used as a temporary shelter.
"I was in the shower and I thought my house was about to fall down," said Christie Scibblo, a 26-year-old mother of four who lives four houses down from the collapsed home. "I ran outside and I saw a firefighter rescuing an infant."
Scibblo said she also saw firefighters hosing down a man who had been burned.
Daniel Killian, 19, who lives across the narrow street from the house that collapsed, said he smelled gas shortly before the collapse.
Joseph Szymborski, 33, was jolted from his bed when he heard what sounded like an explosion and ran outside to find "the house was in the street."
He ran down the street and said he helped neighbors and rescuers look through the rubble, though he was worried about the remains of the damaged buildings falling on him.
"It's situations like this, you just come together as a neighborhood," he said.
Gas and electrical utility crews were on the scene. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said the agency also had two inspectors there but that it was still unclear what happened.
The state regulatory agency would have jurisdiction if the explosion occurred outside the home but not if it occurred inside, Kocher said.
Last month, a collapse at a downtown Philadelphia demolition site killed six people and injured 12 when a large wall fell on an adjacent thrift store. A machinery operator is charged with involuntary manslaughter and a grand jury is weighing whether anyone else should be charged.