Sharpsville, PA Natural Gas Explosion, Feb 1985


Sharpsville, Pa. (UPI) -- A natural gas leak caused an explosion that killed a Mercer County couple, leveled one building and damaged several others, and flung a police cruiser 75, feet police say.
Police Chief Willard Thompson said Friday the early morning explosion that destroyed the one-story Sharpsville Inn and a two-story house attached to the inn was caused by a failed rubber gasket in a joint in a high pressure underground line.
The victims of the blast were identified as HAROLD and JOANNE STANTON, both in their 60's. MRS. STANTON owned the building, and their son lived in and ran a ceramics business from the home. The STANTONS were house-sitting for their son at the time of the blast.
Thompson said the explosion damaged the neighboring Sharpsville Steel Fabricators Co. and bent the iron doors on a nearby American Legion Post.
The area is served by National Fuel Co., police said.
A policeman on patrol, Paul Porreca, smelled natural gas in the area shortly before the blast. After notifying the gas company and the fire department, he returned to the Sharpsville Inn. He was sitting in his car when the explosion rocked the area, flinging his cruiser 75 feet down the street. Porreca was unhurt.
"All of a sudden boom ... I was blown clear across the tracks in the cruiser, Porreca said.
Some 840 Pennsylvania Power Co. customers were without service about 80 minutes, a utility spokesman said.
Gas service to Shenango Inc., an iron company on the same stret, also was shut off.
A resident in the area said the explosion rattled windows in his house.
"My wife thought a car had hit our house," he said. "I talked to a lady a couple blocks away and she said she got knocked out of her bed," said one resident of the blast area, who did not want to be identified.
Thompson said patrons and employees of another local bar also reported smelling natural gas before the blast.

Huntingdon Daily News Pennsylvania 1985-02-23