Jolted in the West End

Car Explosion in West End of Vancouver, B.C.

It hasn’t been twelve hours since 6:48AM today, and the only reason I’ve been able to sort out that moment as the time of the explosion is to compare the blinking alarm clock time next to my bed and the current time on my cellphone.

I wrote an email to my family earlier, and most of what it said felt like a good summary of how we felt today in the midst of this “freak accident“.


Hi again,

Another quick follow up, but it turns out that the explosion was an acetylene tank in the trunk of a car. It was leaking and ignited when the driver, a plumber who uses that tank for welding, used his remote control fob to unlock the car.

When that went, the explosion that rocked our building was the most intense concussion I have ever felt. We lost the one window in our bedroom and are still awaiting for the glass repair company to get to it. The only people injured were two people in a car who just happened to be driving by when it went.

The plumber who drove the Toyota Matrix kept this tank in his trunk as he used it for welding when on the job. He was completely unharmed, but I’d seriously like to go break his legs right about now.

When the explosion hit, I was in the bathroom, just drying my hands after washing them to get my contacts in. I had been awake for about 20 minutes and had just put some laundry together to throw into the wash as I went to the gym. Rebecca was just starting to wake up when it went off.

As I was drying my hands on the towel on the back of the bathroom door, a loud bang quickly crescendoed into a boom that lingered for a few more seconds, and then the whooshing sound took over. I swear the door to the bathroom raised up on its hinges as it swung open from the concussion. When I started to hear that whooshing though, I knew it was debris falling and not the next door neighbor slamming his apartment door closed. Then the sound of shattering glass, the power went out, and then the woman outside screaming.

Rebecca was leaping up from sleep and didn’t know which way was up as the power came back. I got some clothes on, looked out the windows from our balcony and saw the smouldering car. “It’s a car bomb!”, and just kept getting Rebecca to get dressed, grabbed my camera, popped off a few shots of the wreckage only to have the fire inside the wreckage to start popping back at me. Then we didn’t know what was going on, got on the floor and away from the windows. Was there going to be more explosions? The fire inside the car was getting bigger, so was it going to make the other cars around it explode?

So it wasn’t a bomb. It wasn’t terrorism. It wasn’t even a targeted gang hit, which (Sorry, Mom) we have a few international and regional, organized crime groups that decide they don’t like each other from time to time.

Nope.

Just a plumber who doesn’t understand that extremely flammable materials need to be stored in NOT THE TRUNK OF YOUR CAR. The same car I would have been walking by a short while later as I went to the gym.

I did call Mom as soon as this happened to let her know we were okay because Rebecca was taking to the networks fairly straight away. In turn, the media started calling for eyewitness reports, but then we started to back off from the grid because of the shock of it all.

The sound, the feeling, and playing it over and over was traumatizing. It wasn’t at all what you expect as you start your day. But it was massive enough that it rattled everything in our bathroom medicine cabinet around. The visit from the fire department to check on us was one thing, but when some reporter for a Chinese language newspaper snagged us as we were coming back from the market for a long overdue breakfast was enough for me to call off work for today.

So we’re okay, we’ll be okay, but it might take a little bit to get to the point where we don’t stop when you hear a booming noise in the neighborhood, like the sound a garbage truck makes when it empties a dumpster… every morning and throughout the day.

The thing that scares me the most about today is this actually happens more often than we know, all around the world. Google searching around after this happened, I found all sorts of news stories of where a plumber’s vehicle has exploded because of a leaky acetylene tank that was set off by unlocking the doors remotely.

Waiting for our window to be patched almost 12 hours later,
John


And with that, there’s a knock on the door to patch our window. Thanks, plumber guy.

2 Comments

  1. Mom says:

    I wonder what the man that owns the car felt like when the car exploded. It really is a miracle no one was seriously hurt including you and Rebecca.

  2. […] Back story: johnbollwitt.com/2013/05/22/jolted-in-the-west-end/ […]

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