Investigation continues after recovery of body at Bensalem gas station

The death of Joe Vigilante is a 'big loss for the community.'

Tim Jimenez
June 14, 2018 - 10:08 am
Fire Department and ATF back at the scene of the gas station explosion that killed one of its owners, Joe Vigilante.

Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio


BENSALEM, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Authorities in Bensalem are trying to get to the bottom of this week's deadly gas station explosion. The blast killed one of the station's owners. Crews finally recovered his body Wednesday night, 27 hours after he became trapped underground.

A metal fence and orange cones now surround the Liberty gas station on Bristol Pike. The emergency crews, who had set up shop at the site for a couple of days, are gone. 

Bensalem Director of Public Safety Fred Harran says dangerous fumes slowed down the process of getting to Joe Vigilante, who had been trapped in an underground vault that holds an 8,000-gallon fuel tank. 

"If I was a family member, I would just want to get my loved one out. Unfortunately, in our world, things don't work that quickly," Harran said.

Harran described the recovery of Vigilante. 

"They were 12 feet underground," Harran said. "Once they were able to locate the individual, they worked slowly to uncover the earth and safely remove him to join him once again with his family so they could start the healing process."

Vigilante was a co-owner of the service shop that bears his last name and the Liberty gas station. The business, which he ran with his brother Nick, has been a staple in the area for decades. 

George Werner, who owns the flower shop across the street, is reflecting on the Vigilante he knew, the guy who would reach out and offer to plow his parking lot.

"He’s going to be missed by everybody along here," Werner said. "All the customers. We’ve had a lot of the customers go over there [to the gas station> and come here, and we talked. Everybody’s saying the same thing. It’s a big loss for the community."

And now, Werner says the small businesses along Bristol Pike will come together and be there for the Vigilante family.

“Everybody’s strong. Everybody will pitch in and help out.”

Another worker, Frank Tomasiello, was burned badly in Tuesday's blast, and he's getting treatment at the hospital.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.