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Officials: Camden County Explosion Caused By Gas Leak

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By Robin Rieger and Dan Wing

HADDON HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBS) -  Officials in Camden County have confirmed that a natural gas leak was likely the cause of the explosion that destroyed a multi-family home in Haddon Heights, New Jersey Saturday (see related story).

Investigators are still reviewing the scene, but say at this point it does not look like this was an intentionally caused explosion.

Fire officials say six residents live in the home and were all accounted for after the explosion and ensuing fire. Two people were taken to area hospitals with injuries. One of them is still at Crozer Chester Medical Burn Center in critical condition.

The pile of rubble and partial structure of what was the five-unit apartment home on the White Horse Pike in Haddon Heights brought people out Sunday to look at the site and wonder how anyone inside the home survived the explosion.

“Your apartment building just exploded,” said Karen Harkaway, who is one of the apartment home’s owners.

Harkaway is describing a phone call she and her husband, Mike Grace, got on Saturday after the explosion.

She says the phone call brought them to the scene of the destruction, a place she says Mike had painstakingly restored since buying the apartment house several years ago.

“They were beautiful. Architectural moldings, hardwood floors. He takes such good care of his tenants. He’s so upset by this as am I,” Harkaway said.

They are heartbroken their tenants are now homeless and that the one tenant is in critical condition.

“The woman who was injured was the only one home,” Harkaway said.

She is the woman neighbors tried to help after hearing the blast and seeing the house go up in flames.

“I seen my buddy pull over to assist a young lady jumping out of a window that was on fire”, said Mike Smith, who was passing by.

The force of the blast was so powerful, debris, including burned appliances was scattered throughout the yard. Harkaway says she is grateful the other tenants were not home and says it’s likely they won’t be home there for a long time to come.

“They’ve got weeks and weeks and months of getting their lives back in order and you know, we can only just pray for our other tenant”, Harkaway said.

The investigation is ongoing and fire officials will be back at the scene on Monday to try to determine exactly what happened.

Friends of the woman in the hospital are now looking for her black cat, apparently last seen fleeing from the explosion site. Anyone with information on “Leo” can call 609-922-7138.

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