The contracting firm working on a gas line near the Ewing home leveled by a massive explosion in a Ewing was previously been fined thousands of dollars for safety issues, according to records provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. PSE&G, however, has issued a statement defending the firm's qualifications and record.

The homeowner, 62-year-old Linda Cerritelli, was killed in the blast.

Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann (CBS Philly)

Authorities have said the explosion Tuesday occurred after a gas line was accidentally cut by a crew working on a gas line. The contractor, Henkels & McCoy, has previously been fined $70,000 for safety violations at a work site in Bayonne and $42,000 for violations in Neptune.

The violations involved signaling and warning signs and protection of workers during excavations. The company is contesting the fines. A spokesman for Henkels & McCoy says the company is deeply saddened at the loss of life and will cooperate fully with the investigation.

At a press conference  on Wednesday morning Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann said 20 homes are uninhabitable. The gas line was marked out in the area where a contractor was working Tuesday. Officials don't know what went wrong.

Public Service Electric & Gas, who hired the contractor, issued a statement saying it would not comment further until the investigation is complete.

Steinmann also announced a phone number has been set up to assist the families left homeless by the explosion. Residents and businesses can call 609-538-7587 to make a donation of new clothing and blankets with tags.  Cash and gift card donations are the preferred method of donation. according to Steinmann. The call center will begin to accept calls at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

A Deafening Boom

One of 10 homes damaged by Ewing explosion (CBS Philly)

Ed Stoy, who lives a couple of blocks from where the accident took place, was sitting in his office reading a book on his iPad when suddenly, there was a deafening boom.

"Paintings on walls fell, I got a big crack on one of my walls, the two miniature schnauzers I had ran from the office, scared," Stoy said. "I looked outside my window and I saw the flames and the smoke and debris all over the sky."

After calling 911, he raced outside to see what had happened.

"There was a huge ball, a gas ball of flame, and one of the homes caught fire," Stoy said. "That spread quickly up to the second floor, and a neighboring house also caught on fire. It was scary and I'm still a little shook up about it."

Initially, Stoy though a plane had crashed into a house.

"We live so close to the airport, I said a jet crashed or something," he said. "It was a real loud boom, it was -- I served three years in the military and I didn't experience that loud of a bomb like that. It was scary, it wasn't good, it wasn't a good sound, and I don't want to experience it again."

Ewing mayor Bert Steinmann said any loss of life is tragic, but "I feel very fortunate in the fact that when it happened, most people were at work. Thank God for that, there were no children involved in this situation. Had this occurred at 4, 5 o'clock when children were coming home, it would have been a very serious situation. I just thank God that when it happened, it happened."


The Associated Press contributed to this report