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2 found dead in Michigan gas explosion

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Furniture store flattened
  • Second body is found in the rubble of a furniture store, official says
  • Store owner is in serious but stable condition
  • Search and rescue crews removing rubble from the scene of the blast

(CNN) -- Search crews found a second body in the ruins of a furniture store destroyed by a gas explosion in Wayne, Michigan, the city's fire chief said early Thursday.

The body of a 54-year-old woman, a store employee, was pulled from the rubble of Franks Furniture around 10:45 p.m. Wednesday, according to Wayne Fire Chief Mel Moore.

Earlier in the day, the body of a 64-year-old man was also recovered. He was identified only as a male employee of the store, who lived in Westland, Michigan.

The store's owner, Paul Franks, 64, was pulled from the wreckage shortly after the explosion, which occurred at about 9 a.m., City Manager John Zech said. He was in serious but stable condition at the University of Michigan Hospital's burn unit.

Explosion rips apart furniture store

Search and rescue crews, aided by heavy equipment, continued to remove huge amounts of rubble from the scene of the blast, which damaged several buildings in addition to the furniture store. Moore said the process was made more difficult by the removal of "thousands of pounds of concrete" from the store's roof trusses.

As many as 300 people were evacuated after the explosion and a second reported leak in a neighborhood adjoining the furniture store in the suburban Detroit city.

As of Wednesday night, residents of all but nine homes were able to return, and were being offered lodging elsewhere for the night, said Debra Dodd, a spokeswoman for the gas utility, Consumers Energy.

Mayor Abdul "Al" Haidous described Frank's Furniture as one of the "jewels" of the city, and said Franks has been a leader in civic life. "He has served this city with a great deal of integrity," the mayor said

Before the explosion, a Consumers Energy gas worker was two blocks away investigating the reported gas leak, Dodd said.

"We don't know at this time what caused the incident this morning," Dodd said Wednesday night, but added that the utility will work with the state Public Service Commission in investigating.