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Jul 10, 2018

One Man Critical; Leaking Butane Tank Caused Explosion

Grayson Cadle

Two women and a man were sent to the hospital on Monday evening after an explosion at an apartment building in Belize City.  A faulty butane cylinder in one of three apartments on the lower flat of the building at the corner of Mopan and Mahogany Streets caused a leak and when a stove was lit, a massive explosion and fire erupted. The lower flat of the building was completely destroyed, knocking down concrete walls and ripping doors off its hinges. And while four persons are without a roof over their heads tonight, a twenty-one-year-old remains in a critical condition, having received extensive burns to ninety percent of the body. The incident happened dangerously close to Brown’s Gas Depot, but luckily firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze. News Five’s Andrea Polanco files this report.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Tonight twenty-one-year-old Grayson Cadle is in the hospital after he was badly burnt in a fire that destroyed his apartment;  an entire lower flat of this house on the corner of Mopan and Mahogany Streets in Belize City. Cadle, we understand, received significant burns to more than fifty percent of his body so he had to do surgery. He is listed in a serious but stable condition.  Two other persons, thirty-five year old Lisa Santos and her sister , fifty-six-year-old June Tench, were in their parents’ yard when the force of the blast sent fragments flying next door into the property. Santos was hit in the back and Tench was injured to the head. They have both been released from the hospital. Tench recounts the frightening moment – says she is happy to be alive today.

 

Voice of: June Tench, Injured

“All weh I hear dah bum and something just knock me inna my head. When I lift up my head, things just drop down on me and after that I just run outta the yard without slippers – one foot on and one foot off. I neva know weh mi glasses deh, nothing. I just run out and gone out on the street and stand up and when I look back I just look back and see the house – the fire inside the house inside on this side towards where we mi di sit down. I decide fi go back to look for my slippers and my glasses but somebody said not to go back because a gas tank in there and it might blow up.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, with the force of the explosion it threw some pieces of glass over to your side?”

 

Voice of: June Tench

“In our property, yes.  Miss, I am glad to be alive right now. I must say that I am glad to be alive because it could have been worse if that car wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be here standing talking to you right now. If that car neva deh deh, me, my ma, my niece, my sista, wouldn’t deh yah right now.”

Andrea Polanco

“You believe that shielded you guys from the force of that explosion?”

 

Voice of: June Tench

“It did. The car has a big dent on the side. The glass deh bruk .”

 

The impact of that explosion was caught on a surveillance camera across the street. A man was riding his bike – when pieces of this gate and a house door went flying across the street. The biker narrowly escaped but Cadle, who was inside his apartment wasn’t so lucky when the fire erupted. It burnt out the entire lower flat and some flames extended upstairs and scorched the walls and roof. But the fire didn’t reach the inside of the home because the firefighters had contained the blaze.  Downstairs everything was completely destroyed leaving four persons without a roof over their head. A neighbour recalls what he saw.

Voice of: Eyewitness

“I see the front door of the house fly pass basically same time a man mi di pass across the chiney shop. I nuh know weh happen to him or if he okay. But dah mi wah serious impact. Those persons whi live inside the house, them persons mi just come home and dah nuh like dem mi deh home all the while because dah wah partition house. It happen so quickly because the lady come home and she get ready and gone and the man come wah lee while after she. He hail everybody and he gone inside his house and couple minutes when he deh in there he run come out because he under fire. Yuh neva hear – after the bang the fire neva start yet and he run come out and ask fi help. Half of his hair mi deh pahn fire and he mi got on lone trousers.”

 

According to the fire officials – sometime after four on Monday evening there was a gas leak in this apartment where one woman, Luisa Enriques, lived alone. Her neighbor, Cadle, lived in this second apartment on the lower flat. According to the fire service, the butane leak in Enriques’ apartment may have built up over time and was contained inside the structure since the butane tank was inside the apartment. When a fire source was lit inside Cadle’s apartment, reportedly a stove, it ignited the fuel and the explosion went off. And that bang tore off the entire front wall of the building and ripped the door clean off its hinges and almost busted off the security bars from the windows. Smith explains how that happened and why.

 

Orin Smith, Station Officer, Belize National Fire Service

Orin Smith

“Preliminary investigation revealed that the incident occurred as a result of a gas leak where the vapors went undetected for some time and was probably triggered by an open flame or a spark. It could have been from either the refrigerator or someone lighting a stove or something to that effect.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Sir, the leak itself, was it from the connecting house or from the tank itself – was it corroding or anything like that?”

 

Orin Smith

“We have found that the hoses of a few of the tanks that we inspected were burnt off and at least one tank has its pressure relieve valve blown. Based on the extent of the damage, it is believed that the apartment on the east side was where the leak occurred and it was triggered by a source of ignition in the second apartment on the west.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Sir, the butane tank itself, was that inside the apartment or outside?”

 

Orin Smith

“All tanks were inside the apartment. When you have a leak from a butane tank, because of the characteristics of the gas, it is heavier than in air and in an enclosed structure it won’t dissipate, so it will just accumulate. As long as the leak is not detected and stopped and the structure not ventilated, it will just build up and sits there until it gets an ignition source to trigger a rapid explosion or ignition. If it goes undetected for a considerable amount of time to allow the gas to build up to a point when an ignition source is triggered, the pressure that builds up in there it creates considerable damage. It will tear down partition walls, it will knock out windows and if walls are not properly structured it will tear those down as well. Ironically, often many of the incidents I had gone to with gas explosions, the tank sits right there and doesn’t move unless the tank itself ruptures which wasn’t the case in yesterday’s incident.”

The tenant of apartment where the gas leak reportedly happened, Luisa Enriques, says that she had just left her apartment about five to ten minutes before the blaze but she didn’t smell butane inside her home. We asked her if the tank was leaking.

 

Voice of: Luisa Enriques, Fire Victim [Translated]

“Well, I don’t think so because all of yesterday I didn’t use my stove nor my tank. It was locked off.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And you didn’t smell any gas – anything at all – inside your house?”

 

Voice of: Luisa Enriques

Voice of: Luisa Enriques

“No.”

 

Andrea Polanco reporting for News Five.

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