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Oct 9, 2012

Explosion kills San Pedrano while refueling dive tank

Hector Duran

A veteran diver was killed in a blast at Amigos del Mar in San Pedro on Monday evening. The loud explosion shook the dive shop, and other buildings in the neighborhood.  Many immediately set out to help Hector Duran, who has been employed with the company for over twenty years.  Duran succumbed to injuries sustained but the cause of the explosion is under investigation.  It’s an unusual case and News Five’s Isani Cayetano takes a look tonight at what could have possibly triggered the blast.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A deadly explosion shortly before five o’clock on Monday evening in San Pedro Town has resulted in the death of a seasoned scuba diver.  Hector Duran, an employee of Amigos del Mar Dive Shop, was handling a cylinder on the company’s pier when the tank suddenly ruptured.  The massive blast rock the wooden structure, shooting the vessel into the nearby sea.  Lucette Laffoon had just returned an empty tank to the depot a few minutes before the incident.

 

Lucette Laffoon, Eyewitness

“I heard a huge explosion.  I looked into the water and I saw a tank releasing gas into the water and it seemed like there were other pieces of debris from the explosion in the water.”

 

Lucette Laffoon

The magnitude of the blast, as well as the escape of pressurized air from the tank disemboweled Duran.  Laffoon was among the first respondents to the scene of the explosion.

 

Lucette Laffoon

“I ran over to the street, Barrier Reef Drive and I said somebody needs help, I said where is the police station.  A taxi driver put me in the car, drove me to the police station and I got out of the car.  I told the police officer, who was working with another person what was going on.  I said somebody needs to help, there’s a man that’s injured at the tank refilling station.  The police officer looked at me, he finished with the woman and then he proceeded to go over to the fire station and I told the fireman that they needed to hurry there was someone injured because of the explosion.  So then they got into the fire truck and I got back into the taxi, came over here and stood in front with a group of people.  There were a lot of people.”

 

By then a throng had congregated at the pier where an attempt to provide emergency medical assistance to the mortally injured diver was ongoing.  Duran would succumb to his injuries moments later.

 

While an investigation into the accident remains ongoing, a pair of certified technicians at Fabrigas Belize Ltd. has offered expert opinion on what could have caused the explosion.  Ezekiel Ayala is the company’s plant manager.

 

Ezekiel Ayala

Ezekiel Ayala, Plant Manager, Fabrigas Belize Ltd.

“The accident that happened at Amigos del Mar, there could be different scenarios.  First of all it could have been [that] the cylinder was overfilled over the surface pressure of the cylinder.  It could have also meant that the ruptured disc was not the appropriate one for the cylinder.  It could have been that the cylinder was not being filled at the moment and then was opened suddenly, making it a fast fill and therefore overheating the metal beyond its limit.”

 

The technicians confirm that there should be three standard assessments conducted when dealing with a pressurized cylinder, including a visual, as well as a hydrostatic test.  It is questionable whether the latter of the two was done since Fabrigas has the only facility in country to conduct the test.

 

Omar Cima, Maintenance Supervisor

“What I’m doing is hydro testing a scuba cylinder to see if it can withhold the pressure or not.  I fill it with water, screw it on and I will put it in the water jacket.  Everything is done with water and air.  If you notice, the water should go right on top until it’s sealed right.”

 

The purpose of the test, according to Cima, is to measure the tank’s ability to withstand the pressure, using elasticity as it is being filled, a process that is calculated using a specific formula.

 

Omar Cima

“You minus the permanent from the total and that gives you the elasticity.  Then you will take the permanent, you divide it by the total, you times it by a hundred and that gives you the percentage permanent and then you get your result.”

 

Again, whether these measures were taken during the operation of the spent tank remains questionable.  The management of Amigos del Mar, however, have issued a release stating that the company is cooperating in a thorough investigation. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

Duran is the second casualty of a cylinder explosion.  In September 2009, twenty-five year old Elton Herrera, an employee of Brown’s Butane Gas Service, was killed when a tank he was filling suddenly exploded.

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5 Responses for “Explosion kills San Pedrano while refueling dive tank”

  1. Thomas says:

    It is very unfortunate that something like this has to happen before these dive shops will start to think of tank visual and hydro testing. Belize should make it a law that these procedures are done so as to avoid something like this happening again. It could have been worse in the sense that the tank could have exploded on a boat full of divers causing much more damage.

  2. Rod says:

    Like I said this happens when people without the proper knowledge are handling these potential bombs , imagine if this tank would have been on the back of a tourist while diving there is no regulation concerning the use of these tanks maybe now things will change rip

  3. This guy says:

    Potato Salad

  4. This guy says:

    Stew beans

  5. Steve says:

    Hello, Just read the article on the cylinder explosion in Belize. Our company has the equipment to prevent these cylinders from this type of incident. We would like to possibly do an article for your area. Our VisualPlus 3 equipment is specifically designed to find (NECK CRACKS) in aluminum cylinders that can cause rupture during the filling process. Our website is http://www.visualplus.net. We are also recognized and recommended by the major cylinder manufacturers. Our equipment when used correctly will notify the person doing a visual inspection to not fill the cylinder.

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