Fire Service: Gasworks explosion caused by fuel spill exposed to heat
Published: February 6, 2014
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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Fire Service has determined that the Gasworks explosion and fire in September was the result of a fuel spill that was exposed to a nearby heat source.
V.I. Fire Marshal Leon Battiste said Wednesday that the two investigators on the case found that one of the attendants at the family-owned gas station and convenience store, though they do not know which attendant, left fuel that was being transferred into one of three 10,000-gallon tanks unattended.
The four-page report, which was released about five months after the explosion, states that fuel overflowed and one of two heat sources likely ignited the first reaction.
The two sources in the vicinity of the spill included a mechanical pump that could have sparked and a heat vent coming from the kitchen area of the convenient store, Battiste said.
"They were about 20 feet from each other," he said, noting that the investigators could not conclude which source started the fire because of their proximity to each other.
Investigators put the pieces together since the Sept. 14 incident, primarily using the charred physical evidence that remained at the scene afterward and also using interviews of the two attendants and numerous eyewitnesses.
Some of the testimonies were not adding up during the investigation, according to V.I. Fire Service Assistant Director Darryl George, so the investigators continued to delay compiling a report.
In fact, Gasworks owner Jose Lima began reconstructing the station and store prior to the report's completion. Lima applied for a permit to rebuild almost immediately after the explosion occurred.
Reconstruction began about one month later, according to crews who were at the site in December.
The fire cost several entities millions of dollars, Battiste said, estimating that it consumed at least $2 million in property at Gasworks.
Several companies also had stored property in the vicinity of the building, including Island Energy, which owned a fuel truck that was destroyed in the explosion.
The explosion likely reached, if not surpassed, 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Battiste and could be seen for miles when it occurred at about 8:30 p.m.
Onlookers gawked from miles away at the tower of flames and smoke rising from the site.
Only two people were injured: an attendant at the station and someone who rushed to the scene to help her.
It is not yet known when the station and store will be fully operational again, though it is in the final stages of its restoration.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.