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August 04, 2023

Atlantic County house explosion leaves 4 dead, police say

The blast at a home in Buena also hospitalized a 1-year-old and a 16-year-old. The cause has not yet been determined

Investigations Explosions
South Jersey Home Explosion Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

A house explosion in Buena, Atlantic County killed at least three people on Thursday morning, police say. One person is missing and two children were hospitalized.

UPDATE: A fourth body was recovered in the rubble of a South Jersey house that exploded on Thursday. While the children have been identified, their names have not been released due to their ages. The two adult men whose bodies were found have yet to be identified, according to Franklin Township Police.

Police are investigating the cause of a South Jersey house explosion that left three people dead, one person missing and two children injured on Thursday. 

The blast occurred at 10:35 a.m. at home on the 300 block of Northwest Boulevard in Buena Borough, Atlantic County, 6ABC reported. Two unidentified bodies were found in the rubble on Thursday, and a third body was uncovered on Friday, according to the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office. A 1-year-old girl is in critical condition and a 16-year-old girl is in stable condition after sustaining injuries in the explosion, police said. They were flown to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.

The other four people at the home included a 2-year-old boy, a 3-year-old girl and two men, ages 52 and 73, investigators said. Their names have not been released, and police have not disclosed which of them were found dead. Investigators are working to determine whether they were inside or outside the house when the explosion occurred. 

Though a cause has not been identified, Franklin Township Police Chief Matthew DeCesari said it is being treated as a criminal case. 

"We are working diligently to sift through that rubble and attempt to locate the individuals," DeCesari said during a press conference Thursday night. "This is a criminal investigation, (we're in) the infant stages of that investigation, and any information regarding anyone involved, we're not going to release at this time. Our main focus right now is to attempt to recover the two victims that are still missing at this time." 

The Franklin Township Police Department, which is based in Gloucester County but patrols Buena Borough, is investigating the explosion jointly with the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office. DeCesari said the New Jersey State Police, FBI and ATF are assisting in the recovery and investigation. 

Several homes sustained damage during the explosion. Residents from at least two houses close to the explosion have been displaced and are being assisted by the Red Cross. Houses in the immediate area were evacuated out of precaution, but the majority of residents were able to return to their homes late Thursday after police deemed that the properties were safe, DeCesari said. 

"This is just something that's very tragic," DeCesari told the Inquirer. "It's a small community. Everybody seems to know each other. You know, when you have an incident like this, it really hits everyone." 

No causes have been ruled out. Investigators will be on the scene over the next few days and have asked people to stay away from the explosion site, NBC10 reported. 

This story is still developing. Check back here for updates.