‘Free-Air Fuel Explosion’ Caused Car to Blow Apart, Police Say

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Credit: Paul Marzella

A white sedan is in pieces after it exploded on First Avenue in Hellertown.

A white sedan is in pieces after it exploded on First Avenue in Hellertown Sunday night.

Credit: Paul Marzella

A white sedan is in pieces after it exploded on First Avenue in Hellertown Sunday night.

A car explosion in the 1300 block of First Avenue that shook homes in Hellertown Sunday night–causing at least one nearby window to crack–has been determined to have been caused by a “free-air fuel explosion,” borough police said in a news release Monday.

A free-air fuel explosion typically occurs when gasoline vapors leaking from a source, such as a rusted fuel tank or fuel line in an enclosed space, ignite.

Police said the driver of the vehicle that blew apart is believed to have suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the accident, which prompted the evacuation of about 30 residents. Those residents were able to return to their homes before 4 a.m.

The investigation of the explosion was conducted by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Bethlehem Bomb Squad and borough police, who “determined that there is no threat to the community,” police said in the release.

Residents in much of eastern Lower Saucon Township and as far away as Richlandtown reported hearing the massive concussion, which occurred shortly after 9:30 p.m. and caused considerable alarm in the community.

Police said the Northampton County Special Ops/HAZMAT teams and county EMA also assisted in the response to the incident.

Authorities did not identify the driver in the news release.

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