August 5, 2013 in City

Butane caused car explosion that injured two

Man lit a cigarette after he poured butane
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane Police blame a car explosion in the Garland neighborhood Sunday afternoon on the driver, who apparently tried to use flammable butane with a device designed to extract oils from marijuana.

The driver, who was not named, lit a cigarette, igniting the blast that blew the roof off the car. Police are pursuing a search warrant to arrest him for negligence.

The man has been taken to the burn center at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. His 2-year-old daughter, who was in the back seat, suffered burns and was in stable condition this afternoon at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

“We believe there is some negligence when someone is trying to drive a vehicle while pouring butane into a container,” Spokane Police Lt. Mark Griffiths said.

Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said fire crews responded just after 2 p.m. Sunday to the area of Garland Avenue and Howard Street.

The first arriving firefighters could not find a car on fire; instead, they found pieces of a car strewn about and two patients with flash burns.

“The scene was very chaotic. They were primarily focused on the patients,” he said.

Once the man and his daughter were transported to Sacred Heart, fire crews began looking for the cause. They learned the driver had been trying to fill the device to extract oil from marijuana using a 6 ounce bottle of butane, which is normally used to refill cigarette lighters.

“The specific details about what led up to … the explosion is still under investigation,” Schaeffer said.

Fire investigators are working with major crimes detectives and they were expected to obtain a warrant to search the car this afternoon, Griffiths said.

Schaeffer said a large quantity of something as volatile as butane is not needed to cause a large blast.

“It’s pretty spectacular the amount of energy release from vapor like that,” he said. “I’ve seen a small natural gas leak, which found an ignition source, lift a house off its foundation and turn it.”

Griffiths said “opening a flammable liquid inside of the vehicle … was dangerous.”

Detectives will rely on findings from the search warrant before deciding whether to charge the driver, he said.


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