Explosion linked to plumbing project

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CORNING - Authorities spent Saturday digging through the remains of a house that exploded Friday on Corning's Northside, seriously injuring two occupants.

Robert Young, 86, and his grandson, Paul Young, 38, were doing plumbing work at the time, and a natural gas leak is suspected as the likely cause, but investigators need to take a closer look at the scene, Corning Fire Chief John Tighe said.

The 11 a.m. blast Friday obliterated the home at 48 Wilson St. and damaged several neighboring houses.

The victims were airlifted to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, where they were both in guarded condition Saturday.

Robert Young and his wife, Dorothy, have lived in the house for four or five years, according to neighbor Karen Trentanelli. However, Dorothy Young has been living in a nursing home recently.

The two injured men were rescued from their home by neighbors, including Dave Dann of 241 Pulteney St., as several fires were burning in the rubble.

On Saturday, the block of Wilson Street where the explosion occurred remained closed to traffic.

Rubble that was littered across the street after the blast was cleared out, but pieces of insulation and other debris could still be seen in yards several houses away.

A crew from the Corning Fire Department was high above the ground Saturday morning, removing planks and other pieces of the house from the upper branches of a tall pine tree.

"Right now, we're trying to make the area safe, getting stuff out of trees so it doesn't fall on investigators," Tighe said. "We'll go from there and get into the basement area. We know they were doing plumbing work and somehow natural gas got into the house.

"We need to confirm and establish where the gas came from. My team has to get into the basement and take a look," he said.

A water heater and other items from the basement were sitting on a neighboring lawn Saturday. The two men were reportedly replacing a water heater when the explosion occurred.

Tighe also wanted to dispel some rumors about the blast.

"Contrary to what some blogs are saying, it was not a meth lab," he said.

Houses on either side of 48 Wilson St. sustained heavy damage and are uninhabitable, and several other homes were damaged to some degree in the blast, Tighe said.

In addition to Corning fire investigators, the state Public Service Commission and state Office of Fire Prevention and Control had personnel at the site Saturday.

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