Car explodes in Vancouver, causing extensive damage

A car explosion in the West End of Vancouver. (Ken MacQueen/Maclean's)

Michel Hachey, a Vancouver plumber, was lucky to escape with his life when he walked toward his Toyota Matrix early Wednesday morning and pressed his key fob to unlock the doors. A tank of acetylene stored inside had leaked overnight, and the tiny electrical pulse used to unlock the doors triggered a massive blast.

Two occupants of a car passing by on Nicola Street, a block of residential apartment buildings just off busy Robson Street, were injured by flying glass and shrapnel and were sent to hospital with minor injuries.

Hachey, remarkably, was being checked out by ambulance staff but seemed to be unhurt. “He was a very lucky individual,” said Vancouver Fire Department Capt. Gabe Roder. “He was a matter of feet away.”

The massive blast lit up Vancouver’s 911 switchboard at 6:50 a.m., raising fears that a bomb had exploded. “There was extensive damage to a number of buildings in the area,” Roder said. “Some of the damage went as far as 12 storeys high.” A sweep of all buildings in the area found no additional injuries. At the early hour most people were still in bed and the street, except for the passing car, was largely deserted.

Roder stressed that while the accident was a fluke, it also serves as a warning that any gas cylinders, including barbeque propane tanks, should never be stored in a car or enclosed space. “What happened behind me was the result of one big mistake,” Roder said.

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