(BUENA, NJ) — Two people are dead and another two remain missing after a house exploded in New Jersey on Thursday, police said.
A young child and a teenager also suffered burn injuries in the explosion, police said.
Police responded to reports of a house fire around 10:35 a.m. ET in the South Jersey town of Buena, according to Franklin Township Police Chief Matthew DeCesari. The incident was confirmed to have been an explosion, he said.
A 1-year-old girl was flown to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia in critical condition, DeCesari said. A 16-year-old girl was also flown to the hospital and is in stable condition, he said.
Four other people are believed to have been in the house at the time of the explosion, based on interviews with family members — a 2.5-year-old boy, a 3.5-year-old girl, a 52-year-old man and a 73-year-old man, DeCesari said. Two bodies have been recovered from the rubble, though authorities are unable to determine their ages, genders or races, he said.
“We are working diligently to shift through that rubble and attempt to locate the other two individuals,” DeCesari said.
The relationships of the victims is unclear, DeCesari said.
Several houses in the immediate area sustained damage in the explosion; residents were evacuated and there were no additional injuries, DeCesari said.
The investigation is being deemed a criminal one at this early stage, DeCesari said.
“It was an explosion, we don’t know what caused it,” DeCesari told reporters at a press briefing Thursday afternoon. “We are treating it as a criminal investigation at this point until we determine otherwise.”
Multiple fire departments responded to the scene. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, FBI and New Jersey State Police are also assisting in the investigation, DeCesari said.
“All indications are this thing went up very fast and it was a lot to try to fight,” DeCesari said of the fire.
Footage from the scene showed the home had been reduced to debris. A person who works nearby told Philadelphia ABC station WPVI he heard a loud “boom” and felt the explosion, then saw smoke coming from the house.
“This is just something that’s very tragic,” DeCesari said. “This is a small community. Everybody seems to know each other. And when you have an incident like this, it really hits everyone.”
Police are asking the public to share any cell phone or Ring camera footage captured prior to or during the explosion.
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