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Franklin Ave House Explosion - New Castle PA

On November 27, 2006, a thirty-year-old troubled man named Patrick A. Henry, in an apparent suicide attempt, ignited an open gas line in his rented house at #833 Franklin Avenue in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, two of his friends, newlywed couple Jared and Sophie Baker, had just arrived at his house to check on him. They were in his yard when a massive explosion rocked the house at 12:30pm. Henry’s house was instantly destroyed and flying debris devastated the surrounding area. As many as thirty homes were damaged around the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Almira Street. Henry’s home and another next door at #831 were engulfed in flames as emergency personnel arrived at the chaotic scene. Henry and the Baker’s were critically injured (suffering from serious burns) and airlifted to hospitals in Pittsburgh. Another two people were slightly injured and treated locally.

The damage to the area was extensive and estimated at $1.3 million. Several families were left homeless and required assistance from the Red Cross. The house at #831 was a particular cause of concern as the owners, Bill and Katie Hruska, were unaccounted for. Trained cadaver dogs searched the rubble, but it was soon determined that the Hruska’s were away in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The area looked as though a tornado ripped through it and was blocked off to traffic for several months as assessment teams went to work. In addition to Henry’s home another small building behind it, others at #824, 827, 829, 831, 835, and 836 Franklin Avenue, and #917 Almira Street were all demolished and cleared away in the coming months. Many others underwent repair. All of the victims of the blast, including Henry, recovered after various periods of hospitalization. Sophie Baker spent two months in the hospital, including being placed in medically-induced coma for a few weeks to help her deal with the pain of several skin graft surgeries. An outpouring of support and financial donations for the Baker’s helped them deal with the ordeal and the expensive medical bills that followed.

Henry, facing harsh punishment, accepted a plea bargain in November 2008. Two months later he was sentenced to spend 7-14 years in prison, followed by six years probation, and to pay a fine of over $781,000. If you visit the area today you will hardly notice anything unusual. A few homes were rebuilt, but grass-covered vacant lots serve as a reminder of where houses once stood at the corner of Franklin and Almira.


Patrick Henry, whose suicide attempt caused the carnage along Franklin Avenue.


A view of the destruction caused on Nov 27, 2006.


New Castle firefighters work on a house next to the site of the explosion on Nov 27, 2006.


The front porch of a house across the street from the explosion. (Dec 2006)


An exposed cellar where a house once stood. (Dec 2006)


A few weeks after the explosion boarded-up windows were the norm no matter where you looked. (Dec 2006)


The huge hole at the site of the explosion – where the house at #833 Franklin Ave once stood. (Dec 2006)


My grandmother (I miss ya!) Irene (LaPatka) DeMarc strolls alongs Franklin Ave taking in the damage. (Dec 2006)


The marking “ABD,” signifying an abandoned house, was visible at several homes still standing along Franklin Ave. (Dec 2006)


The exposed cellar of a demolished house. (Dec 2006)


Standing on Almira St looking towards the intersection with Franklin Ave. Just past the orange barriers a backhoe rests on the former site of #833 Franklin Ave, where the explosion occured. (Dec 2006)


Same view as last photo but taken three years later. The site of #833 still sits vacant. (Nov 2009)


Looking at the rubble pile of #831 Franklin Ave. The house just to the right (#829) was also torn down at a later date. (Dec 2006)


Similar view as last photo but taken three years later. The rubble of #831 is gone and a new one-story home has been built on the lot. (Nov 2009)


Standing on Franklin Ave and looking away from the site of the explosion. Almira Home dominates the background. (Dec 2006)


Similar view of last photo taken three years later. The two houses that sat on the southeast corner of Almira and Franklin are now long gone. The Almira Home is clearly visible in the center background. (Nov 2009)

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Comment

  1. Even a former Church located at the corner of East Lutton street and East Washington street was damaged so much it had to be razed too.

    Jack Gill · 12/08/2014 08:10 PM · #