Investigators suspect a leaky propane tank provided fuel for a fireball explosion in an RV on the Songhees Nation reserve Monday night.
View Royal fire inspector Rob Marshall said the lone occupant, a 27-year-old male, was using a barbecue-size propane tank to feed a heating unit in the RV.
“It looks like gas leaked out and ignited,” Marshall said. After the propane blast, the relief valve on the 20-pound tank failed, turning it into a large, out-of-control blow torch.
As of Wednesday, officials had yet to speak with the man, who is in the intensive care unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital. He suffered serious burns to his face and neck, and lacerations to his legs from glass.
View Royal fire, the B.C. Safety Authority and West Shore RCMP investigated the explosion on Tuesday, and pieced together most of the sequence of events. The ignition source remains unclear, although it could be the heater itself.
It’s believed the occupant, who lived in the uninsured vehicle parked behind his parents’ house, was sitting at his table when the propane ignited at about 11:45 p.m. Monday night.
“He was burned from the neck up,” noted Marshall, explaining that the uniform pattern of injury suggests it was likely a flash burn, meaning he was only in the fire for an instant.
Officials initially thought the force of the blast ejected the man out of the camper, but Marshall said that based on witness comments, and despite his injuries, he likely managed to throw himself out, saving his own life.
“We think he dove out the window,” Marshall said.
The fire burned hot and fast, fully engulfing the 24-foot RV in under five minutes. The fire was at least 660 degrees C as it melted the RV’s aluminum siding.
“If he hadn’t got out instantly, the fire would have been unsurvivable,” said View Royal fire chief Paul Hurst. “Burns aside, he is a lucky guy.”
A total of 18 fire fighters from View Royal and Colwood made quick work of the fire, knocking it down in a few minutes. The camper was destroyed, with it’s front and rear walls melted away and the interior charred black.