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A survivor told what it was like to be inside when an explosion rocked rowhouses in South Philadelphia on Dec. 18.
Connie Diu, 25, told CBS-TV’s Philadelphia affiliate that the walls around her started to crack and windows shattered.
“I just started to panic. I had to get out,” Diu said. “Everything happened so fast. The only thing I remember is the wall just grazed my back and I just jumped up really fast and I saw a lot of glass falling, and I thought it was an earthquake. But once I turned around, I saw the whole house was collapsed.”
Diu’s older brother, Brian Diu, 28, was one of two people who died in the explosion. “He’s like the jokester of the family,” Connie Diu said.
The other victim was identified as Rudi Kambong, 65.
South Philly rowhouse explosion:
Connie Diu wants answers
Connie Diu said she was on the first floor when the explosion occurred. After escaping, she said, she didn’t realize her brother was still inside the house.
Authorities found his body buried underneath debris the next day.
“Since his phone went straight to voicemail, you kind of just think of the worst already,” Connie Diu said. “I was just so shocked. I was just so numb. I didn’t know what to do.”
Now, she wants to know who is going to be held accountable.
“What happened? We just want to know what happened,” Connie Diu said. “Brian lost his life. He was only 28 years old. He had his whole life ahead of him.
“We just want answers. It’ll never be the same. But we’re trying to get through it, and Brian wouldn’t want us to be too devastated.”
South Philly rowhouse explosion:
Five homes demolished
More than a week later, the 1400 block of South 8th Street is still a mess. Five homes have had to be torn down because of the explosion, which sent a fireball high into the sky
Kambong’s family member said he couldn’t speak well after suffering a stroke a year ago. They said he was in bed on the second floor of his home when it collapsed.
Officials still haven’t said what caused the explosion, but investigators said they believe it was “gas fed.”
Beechcraft plant explosion:
Eleven people hospitalized
Eleven people were taken to a hospital, according to Sedgwick County EMS director John Gallagher, and one of those victims sustained “potentially serious injuries.” Four other people had minor injuries that did not require hospitalization.
The explosion occurred when a 3-inch nitrogen gas line ruptured at Beechcraft’s Plant 3 shortly after 8 a.m. local time, company spokesperson Stephanie Harder said in a news conference. All employees and contractors working at the plant have been accounted for, Harder said.
“One of the benefits is the plant was closed or shut down for the holiday season, so the numbers that would have been here were not,” Sedgwick County fire deputy chief Daniel Wegner said.
Fire officials are checking the structural integrity of the facilities, Wegner said. The initial leak, which was contained, caused a rupture in another nitrogen vessel, he said, but that nitrogen gas is venting and there’s no danger to the surrounding community.
The cause of the first rupture is not known and is under investigation.
Plant 3 contains composite manufacturing operations and experimental aircraft fabrication, Harder said.
Beechcraft is owned by Textron Aviation and manufactures single- and twin-engine aircrafts.
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