Lower Township honors responders to Villas house explosion

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 Mayor Michael Beck addresses representatives from local fire companies, the Lower Township Rescue Squad, Lower Township Police and civilians who responded to the Nov. 7 emergency. 
  Mayor Michael Beck addresses representatives from local fire companies, the Lower Township Rescue Squad, Lower Township Police and civilians who responded to the Nov. 7 emergency.  

Mayor: When the bell rang, people turned out

LOWER TOWNSHIP – It’s a wonderful life here, according to Mayor Michael Beck, even though the Villas and its environs sometimes get a “bum rap” in the media.

“That (reputation) is unjustified in a lot of ways,” said Beck, “but this is certain – when the bell rang, when people needed help, people turned out.”

Council and the community here honored responders – uniformed and civilian – who helped save Jim and Evelyn McCarty in the aftermath of a Nov. 7 explosion that leveled their 234 East Atlantic Avenue home.

“This is the perfect time of year to honor these people,” said Beck, as he handed out certificates and accolades to fire fighters, rescue squad members, police officers and neighbors who turned out at the McCarty’s hour of need. The recognition came at council’s Monday night work session.

“I know the family is grateful. On behalf of council, of the township, of the McCarty family, we can’t thank you enough,” said Beck, who lives near the site of the explosion and felt the explosion tear through the single family home.

“I think for the average person, when something happens, they stop and look. For those who are trained, they move immediately toward the action. It was comforting to see the fire trucks, you knew it was, somehow, going to be ok at that point,” he said.

The McCartys were unable to attend the council meeting, or the fundraiser held on their behalf last weekend at VFW Post 4353. But, Beck spoke with Jim by phone prior to the meeting, he said.

“They are in a (medical) rehabilitation facility in the Germantown section of Philadelphia,” he said. “And suffice it to say they have a ways to go in their recoveries, but the McCartys are looking forward to being back down here and thanking everyone in person.”

The retired couple’s single family home was destroyed following an explosion. After being pulled from the burning remnants of their home, the couple was flown to Crozier Burn Center in Chester, Pa. by helicopter.

“I don’t know how they survived, but they did – thanks to the people who are standing here tonight,” Beck said. “Hero is a word we toss around a lot, but there were a lot there that day.”

Council recognized the Green Creek Volunteer Fire Company, Erma Volunteer Fire Company, Townbank Volunteer Fire Company and Villas Volunteer Fire Company for their work at the scene. Beck gave certificates to firefighters who first responded to the scene: Bill Howard, Andy Hilvert, Jr., Frank McCloskey, Andrew McCloskey, Charles Jordan and Bill Szemcsak. 

The mayor also thanked members of the Lower Township Rescue Squad and Lower Township Police Department.

“You guys put your life on the line quite frequently and we’re grateful for that,” he said. “This was an exceptional event.”

Beck thanked Lower Township Special Officer Corey Scheid; residents Bill and Gary Lazaro, Nick Blasi, Stan Adamson and Daryl Benjamin; and Rio Grande volunteer firefighters Ken Hewitt and John Thomson

Hewitt and Thomson were within a block of the McCarty home at the time it exploded.

“John and I were probably one of the first ones on scene,” Hewitt said. “It was a mess. The house had imploded in on itself.”

He said he heard people yelling that the home’s residents were trapped inside the structure. Hewitt said he and Thomson and two other men jumped up onto the home’s rear deck where the roof had fallen and began looking for survivors.

They discovered resident Jim in a small area of the mostly-collapsed house, Hewitt said. Thomson began to lift McCarty from the debris as the others assisted. They were able to help McCarty walk to the front of the house and reunite him with his wife, Evelyn.

“It happened fast,” Hewitt said. “In all my years as a firefighter that had to be the worst scene I’ve ever seen. Everybody that was there did their own part to help these people. That was awesome to see.”

“We could go a long way and still never know how many people were there that night,” Beck said. “We didn’t hold roll call, and there was a lot going on at the time.”

“We are grateful to you all,” added Beck, addressing the named responders and the dozens more who turned out to help. “This is what community looks like.”

 
John Thomson and Ken Hewitt, Rio Grande Volunteer firefighters, were among the first to enter the East Atlantic Avenue home.

 John Thomson and Ken Hewitt, Rio Grande Volunteer firefighters, were among the first to enter the East Atlantic Avenue home.

photos courtesy of Lower Township Public Information


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