Multiple Homes Damaged in Deadly Natural Gas Explosion in Plum Area, East of Pittsburgh

by Duane Nichols on August 16, 2023

Peoples Gas crew fixing leaks along Kathy Lynn Drive in Regency Park section of Plum on Tuesday, August 15th after the deadly explosion of Saturday, August 12th

Natural gas leaks found in Plum’s Regency Park neighborhood following fatal Rustic Ridge blast
From an Article by Brian C. Rittmeyer, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, August 15, 2023
The cause of Saturday’s explosion at 141 Rustic Ridge Drive remains under investigation. Five people were killed: Michael Thomas, Plum’s borough manager; Heather Oravitz, the borough’s community development director; father and son Casey and Keegan Clontz; and Kevin Sebunia. Oravitz’s husband, Paul, was last known to be hospitalized in critical condition with severe burns.

The blast originated at the Oravitz home at 141 Rustic Ridge. It destroyed Thomas’ home at 139 Rustic Ridge and another owned by Harrison and Kelly Smith at 143 Rustic Ridge, which are the houses next to 141 Rustic Ridge. Many other houses sustained damage, and an unknown number are expected to be demolished.

On Monday, the Allegheny County Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed it was investigating the possibility that issues with a hot water tank at 141 Rustic Ridge may have played a role in the explosion.

Following the fatal explosion that investigators say may have been fueled by natural gas in Plum’s Rustic Ridge neighborhood, two natural gas leaks have been found in another borough neighborhood. Leaks were reported in the area of Crestview and Mower drives, and on Kathy Lynn Drive in Plum’s Regency Park neighborhood.

The leak at Crestview and Mower was repaired Monday night, while the leak on Kathy Lynn was being fixed Tuesday, Peoples spokesman Nick Paradise said. However, Peoples crews were seen continuing to work in both locations into Tuesday night. In both locations, the odor of natural gas was noticeable outside.

No information was immediately available regarding the age of the natural gas lines in that area or what they are made of.

Peoples crews were working Tuesday near Shayla Sorrells’ home on Kathy Lynn Drive, where she has lived her entire life. She said she has noticed the smell of gas outside for several months. “I thought it was an issue with my car. I wasn’t aware it was a natural gas leak,” said Sorrells, 35. “We should have been made aware it was a gas leak or we should have been told a long time ago.”

Barbara Mesher has lived on Kathy Lynn Drive since 1962. She noticed the odor, too. “I think they’re going to have to do all of Plum,” she said. “I think that they should check this whole area. I don’t know how old these pipes are.”

Scott Soxman, whose home of 10 years is at the corner of Mower and Crestview, said he and his wife noticed a gas smell outside their home Monday. “With everything else, we called it in,” he said. Across Crestview, Pat Greenwald said she had never noticed an odor of gas. She saw the work being done Monday night. “I wasn’t concerned because I never smelled it,” she said.

Soxman said Peoples crews were out before sunset Monday and were there until about 2 a.m. Tuesday. He was happy it was fixed. “They didn’t even knock my fence down,” he said.

Paradise said Peoples encourages any of its customers who believe they detect natural gas odor to call its 24-7 hotline at 800-400-4271. ”Our teams will then identify if there’s a leak, schedule repair and perform regular safety checks,” he said. “This is the process we’re following in Regency Park.”

Paradise said customers can find more information at


SEE THIS VIDEO: Deadly house explosion rattles Pennsylvania neighborhood NBC News, August 16, 2023

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Allegheny County August 16, 2023 at 9:44 pm

Plum Borough, ACOME Announce Death of Sixth Victim of August 12 House Explosion

From Allegheny County News, August 16, 2023

PITTSBURGH – Plum Borough officials and the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner (ACOME) today announced that Paul Oravitz, 56, a victim of the Saturday, August 12, 2023 house explosion, died earlier today at a local hospital.

The number of victims, all of whom resided in Plum Borough, is at six:

Casey Clontz, 38

Keegan Clontz, 12

Heather Oravitz, 51

Paul Oravitz, 56

Kevin Sebunia, 55

Michael Thomas, 57

At this time, all remains have been released to the families for funerals and burial.

Cause and manner of death remain pending at this time. There is no time frame for when such determination will be made.


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