UPDATED: Victims In Dorrance Twp. House Explosion Identified

May 17, 2019 GMT

DORRANCE TWP. — A husband and wife died and their son was hospitalized after a house explosion in Dorrance Twp. early Friday morning.

The house at 2165 Alberdeen Road was leveled and there was heavy fire when firefighters arrived just after 1:40 a.m., Dorrance Twp. Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Kotarsky said. 

Ester Rupp Hedgepeth, 66, and Eugene W. Hedgepeth, 77, were killed in the explosion, according to state police at Hazleton.

Their son, Nathan Hedgepeth, 20, suffered moderate injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening.

He made his way to Alberdeen Road and was taken to an area trauma hospital after one of several explosions, Dorrance Twp. Fire Chief Duane Seltzer said. 


Emergency personnel recovered Ester Hedgepeth from the remains of the home soon after responding and located her husband later Friday afternoon.

An excavator was brought in around 7:30 a.m. to search through the still smoldering debris. Charred portions of the house, which was set far back from the road, were scattered in the woods around the house, hanging from trees and thrown into the neighbor’s yard. Pieces of molding landed across Alberdeen Road.

Neighbors reported multiple explosions, Kotarsky said. 

State police Fire Marshal Jamison Sgarlot noted that there were multiple tanks around the property, which was littered with debris.

The cause of the explosion and fire are still under investigation but investigators are looking into the possibility of propane causing it, Seltzer said.

Firefighters from Dorrance Twp., Hobbie, Wright Twp., Slocum Twp., Fairview Twp. and Nuangola responded.

“It was a ball of fire. It was actually pretty much leveled after the last explosion,” Seltzer said.

Firefighters arrived and began rolling out hoses to put out the fire in the debris as the last of the explosions erupted, he said.

“I’m very thankful they weren’t hurt,” Seltzer said.

After putting out the flames, firefighters went to work on a recovery mission. They remained on scene until the afternoon.

Some of the first responders knew the family but they focused on dealing with the task at hand — the immediate public safety issues, Seltzer said.

“That’s all you can do,” he said.

A family cat is also believed to have perished. According to a county property database, the family acquired the property in April 2008.

The Luzerne County Coroner’s Office also assisted at the scene.