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A leaking butane tank triggers explosion in two apartments

Three persons were injured late Monday evening in Belize City during a blast that blew off a portion of wall from a house. Grayson Cadle is in a critical condition after he sustained severe burns to his body during that late evening explosion. The 25-year-old was inside his apartment located at the lower flat of a two storey concrete building situated at the corner of Mopan and Mahogany Streets. The blast was caused by a leaking tank that was inside a second apartment also on the lower flat of the building. The explosion was followed by a fire which was later controlled by the fire department personnel. Dalila Ical has more on the incident.

Just as the media was about to conduct an interview at the National Fire Service sirens blared at around 4:35 pm and fire personnel rushed out. An explosion had happened at a residence situated at the corner of Mopan and Mahogany Street just across the street from Brown’s Butane Gas Service. The blast was followed by a fire. Firefighters rushed in and not long after they brought the blaze under control. The entire lower flat of the two storey concrete building was extensively damaged, the lower flat was divided into two apartments. The wall on the East apartment was blown off exposing kitchen fixtures and appliances. A butane tank was exposed but intact. The adjacent apartment was totalled by fire, the walls were blackened at each window and these extended all up the walls of the second floor of the building. Three persons were injured, one of them Grayson Cadle one of the tenants of the apartments was severely burned. They had all been rushed to the hospital for treatment. There was much speculation as to what caused the explosion but today station officer at the National Fire Service Orin Smith said the blast was triggered by a leaking gas tank.

Orin Smith,  Station Officer, National Fire Service: “The preliminary investigation revealed that the incident occurred as a result of a gas leak where the vapors went undetected for some time and probably was triggered by either an open flame or a spark. It could have been either from the fridge or someone lighting a stove or something to that effect.”

Reporter: The leak itself did it come from the connecting hose or was it from the tank? Is the tank perhaps corroding anything like that ?

Orin Smith,  Station Officer, National Fire Service: “We have found that the hoses of a few of the tanks that we inspected were burnt off and at least one tank had it’s pressure relief valve blown. Based on the extent of the damage it is believed that the apartment on the East side was where the leak occurs and it was triggered by a source of ignition on the second apartment on the west.”

The apartment on the West was occupied by Cadle who was alone at the time. It is still unclear whether Cadle himself lit a fire or if the source of the fire was caused by something else. No one was inside the apartment where it is believed that leak came from. The ignition triggered a massive explosion, a part of which was captured by the surveillance camera on a Chinese shop across the street. It shows a young man narrowly escaping injury as he rode a bicycle towards the shop. Seconds after debris flew across the street behind him. That debris was the gate yard, a burglar bar and a refrigerator door. The gate landed across the street, the others landed further in a drain about thirty feet away from the house.

Reporter: Now the extent of the damages in that building it led people to think that it was something other than the explosion of a butane tank could you explain how a butane tank could produce that kind of damage to a concrete building ?

Orin Smith,  Station Officer, National Fire Service: “When you have a leak from a butane tank, because of the characteristics of the gas it is heavier than air and in an enclosed structure it won’t dissipate so it just accumulates. So long as the leak is not detected and stopped and the structure ventilated it will just build up and sit there until it gets an ignition source to trigger a rapid explosion or ignition. If it goes undetected for a considerable time to allow the gas to build up to a point where 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 wall 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 often unless the tank itself ruptures which wasn’t the case in yesterday’s incident.”

To the side of the house Florence Santos was sitting outside with her two daughters 35 year old Elisa Santos and 56 year old June Tench. In an off camera interview Santos related what happened.

Florence Santos, Witness: “We just heard bang and after that we got up and we ran into the street. June and Lisa got hurt, Jun got hit in her head and the side of her face and Lisa got a lot of splinters in her hand plus she got a knock in her back.”

Reporter: What is her condition right now ?

Florence Santos, Witness: “Well she is alright right now. Liss and June are alright right now.”

Reporter: They came out of the hospital from yesterday?

Florence Santos, Witness: They never stayed in there. They just went for dressing and came right back out.

 The family’s car was also damaged. Investigators studied the aftermath in the lower flat which was almost completely totaled.

Reporter: The damages to the lower flat doesn’t that render the building dangerous to live in for those on top?

Orin Smith,  Station Officer, National Fire Service: “Only if the structural integrity was compromised.”

Reporter: That hasn’t been established yet?

Orin Smith,  Station Officer, National Fire Service: “Not as yet.”

Love News understands that Cadle sustained serious burns to at least 80 percent of his body and is currently in a coma.