A decade later, deadly Pennsylvania gas explosion continues to spur safety changes, haunt neighbors

  • Source: The Morning Call - Metered Site
  • Published: 02/09/2021 12:00 AM

PHOTOS: The emptiness across the block still unsettles Elsa Reyes after midnight, when she returns from work to her North 13th Street home in Allentown. During the first five years Reyes lived on the east side of the 500 block, eight row homes stood across the street. Her son Joel would walk to school with a girl, Katherine Cruz, who lived at 542 N. 13th St. But for a long time now, Reyes has turned the corner at Allen Street to see nothing but five small white crosses on the end of a vacant lot. Ten years ago Tuesday night, a natural gas explosion leveled the homes, killing 16-year-old Cruz; her 4-month-old son, Matthew Manuel Vega; and her 69-year-old grandmother, Ofelia Ben. A couple living next door — William Hall, 79, and his wife, Beatrice, 74 — also died. Long after the debris was cleared, the site has remained subdivided into eight undeveloped plots. At night, the emptiness plays mind games with the neighbors who lived through the disaster. Cathy Royack, who lives a few doors down from Reyes, sometimes sees the Halls’ Christmas lights


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