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Man survives Md. explosion

A Maryland man is lucky to be alive after a propane tank he was reaching for exploded Sunday morning, state fire officials said.

Brian Hill, 28, had gotten a full-sized propane cylinder refilled, loaded it in the bed of his Ford F-150 truck, and headed toward his home in Indian Head. He was pulling into his driveway when neighbors alerted him to smoke seeping from a valve.


The man’s truck was destroyed. (Courtesy of Maryland Fire Marshal)

Authorities said Hill lowered the rear gate and was grasping for the tank when it ruptured, gutting the vehicle and severing the side of the truck bed.

Hill suffered only first and second degree burns. He was treated at a hospital and released.

“I can’t believe he’s not dead,” Duane Svites, deputy chief state fire marshal, said.

-- Mike McPhate

By Washington Post Editors  |  June 21, 2010; 10:37 AM ET
Categories:  Charles , Fires & Fire Safety  
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A good warning to all of us in hot weather.

The propane in a tank will expand and increase pressure as its temperature rises. Tanks are fitted with a pressure relief valve, and a full tank, if exposed to high heat, such as in the bed of a pickup on a sunny 90+ degree day, will result in the pressure relief valve opening to purge excess pressure.

The "smoke" from the tank most likely was the propane fog from the tank purging.
Once the truck was stopped, propane gas being heavier than air, the highly flammable gas would have settled around and beneath the truck.

Possible that once the propane came in contact with the truck's superheated catalytic converter, the explosion resulted.

Another possibility is that when the driver went to touch the tank, a static electric spark might have triggered the explosion. If he touched the tailgate before, that should have discharged the static buildup; however, if the truck had a rubberized or plastic bedliner, then a spark still could have ensued when he touched the tank.

The fellow is lucky to be alive.

Word to the wise-- be careful with propane tanks in the heat of summer.

NEVER put a full tank in the trunk of your car in hot weather. And ALWAYS keep full tanks out of enclosed hot areas and direct sunlight in the heat of summer.

Posted by: LAWPOOL | June 21, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Had a coworker that was badly burned by a propane grill explosion...hate propane to this day. Go charcoal/wood and be safe regardless...

Posted by: kahlua87 | June 21, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

A final warning which should not be necessary:

If you ever see a propane tank "smoking" or discharging gas [the "fog" or "smoke" actually are frozen crystals of propane gas that form from rapid decompression, which thereafter quickly go back to gaseaous form], put a safe distance between yourself and the tank. If it does not stop within a few seconds, evacuate the area and call the fire department.

Posted by: LAWPOOL | June 21, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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