South Philly photographer recounts first minutes after gas explosion [photos]
When South Philadelphia resident Tom Smith's house shook on Monday morning, he dialed 911, grabbed his Sony Cybershot camera and ran to the site of a gas explosion one block away to take pictures.
Smith is a 12-year resident of the 300 block of Daly Street in South Philadelphia. He lives a block away from the site of a gas explosion that caused the collapse of three houses on Monday.
"I just walked into my house, not even five minutes from walking my dog. I sat down to watch TV, and my partner was on the computer, and all of a sudden we heard an explosion. The entire house shook," Smith said. "I thought trucks hit a trash dumpster on the corner of 4th Street going 100 miles per hour."
"We jumped up and ran to the sidewalk. We saw a huge billow of smoke in the middle of the street, and then I dialed 911. Then I grabbed my camera and ran down the block. I started taking pictures until I was told to leave by police and firefighters."
"The contractor was one of the first people I saw, but I just couldn't take pictures. You could see that the skin was literally melting off of him. He was not on fire, and he was walking up saying, 'Help me, help me.' The fire team poured water on him to cool him down before the paramedics arrived."
Smith didn't know anyone on the 400 block, but at least seven of his neighbors on the 300 block ran to the collapse. Smith's photos were among the first to be taken at the scene.
Tom Smith is an amateur photographer. On weekends he shoots parties and events for people he knows who can't afford to hire a professional.