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No Trace of Missing Man After Explosion

September 20, 1991 GMT

CHARLEROI, Pa. (AP) _ A police chief said there was no sign of foul play at a missing car dealer’s house, ″but that’s pretty tough to tell when the place is blown up.″

Police Thursday said Art Jones, 52, was a missing person after they found no remains in the rubble of his home in Fallowfield Township, Washington County.

An explosion leveled the structure Wednesday morning. It hurled debris more than 100 feet away, destroyed a car and left the ruins in flames.

″We sifted through the rubble twice. He wasn’t there,″ said Samuel Woncheck, chief of the township police. ″He could be sitting on a beach down in Florida sunning himself for all I know.″

Searchers using heavy equipment went through the debris for about 20 hours Wednesday. They found Jones’ drivers’ license and credit cards. Jones, who lived alone, was seen entering his home Tuesday about seven hours before the explosion.

Jones owns the Art Jones-Bendik Lancaster Buick car dealership in Charleroi. He replaced an employee in the service department Tuesday, said John Markulike, the dealership’s general manager.

″There was nothing unusual. He came in at 9 and left at about 5,″ Markulike said.

Neighbors said most homes in the area are heated with electricity, but Jones’ house was heated by propane gas. Neighbor Clara Costanza said her husband told her Jones had been switching his hot water tank from propane to electric.

State police said they were unable to determine the cause of the blast due to the damage. Troopers said propane hadn’t been ruled out.

″It seemed like a bomb dropped on it,″ Coroner Farrell Jackson said. Searchers should have found remains if someone was in the home when it blew, Jackson said.

Judith George, who lives two doors away, said she first thought lightning had struck nearby when her house was rocked by the explosion.

″But then I could see something red in the sky and saw the house was on fire,″ she said.