PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Police have announced what they believe is the cause of a lunch truck explosion in Feltonville that sent 13 people to the hospital yesterday. (See Previous Story)
An investigation revealed two 100 pound propane tanks were being used to supply grills inside the lunch truck. Only one tank was being at the time, although both were full.
Police say witnesses reported smelling propane prior to the explosion and authorities believe a significant leak occurred in the unused tank.
A propane vapor cloud then enveloped the truck finding a fire source at the grill, causing a fireball to encase the entire street.
A SEPTA police officer saw the explosion and arrived on the scene to find multiple victims lying in the street, at least one of which was on fire.
Officer Don Noz says, “People were walking around in their underwear. They had taken their clothes off from being burned. Skin was hanging off bodies as they walked around.”
Those injured by the blast included people sitting on the steps of a house across the street.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. The truck was still on fire, there was people using fire extinguishers on several fires,” Noz said.
Five people remain in critical condition from the explosion. Four of the victims are being treated at Temple Hospital and one at St. Christopher’s Hospital.
Five others were treated and released from Einstein and Hahnemann Hospital.
“All this is burned up,” Angel Carabello said.
Carabello wears the scars physically and mentally after being enveloped in a massive fireball.
“I was standing right in the staircase. And with the explosion, the fire got to me, on my back and my ear,” he said.
Carabello was one of 13 victims injured when the food truck exploded, sending a sweeping ball of fire across the entire street.
“It was terrifying because it was a big boom. It was terrible. Everybody was screaming. I was screaming myself because of the pain,” Carabello said.
After the first explosion, police worried about a second while the truck was still on fire.
“There was a propane line actually hissing going along the line.”
The tank that exploded was later found in a yard on 4th Street.
L & I verified the truck was licensed to operate at the location on 200 W. Wyoming Avenue. A relative of the owner, Olga Galdamez, who remains hospitalized, says, “She was doing a really good job. It’s crazy how this just happens.”
ATF Arson & Explosives Task force are continuing this ongoing investigation with East Detectives and the Fire Marshal.
Investigators say the truck was properly licensed. But Eyewitness News found that outside of periodic health inspections dealing with food safety, there is no department inspecting for non-food related issues.
While the investigation continues, victims continue to relive a moment forever etched in their memory.
“It could have been worse. I thank God I’m here,” Carabello said.
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