News

Gas bottle to blame for fatal Ballina fire

The unit block at Owen Street, Ballina, in flames after Friday night's explosion.
The unit block at Owen Street, Ballina, in flames after Friday night's explosion. Naomi Whitney

A NINE kilogram gas bottle was the source of an explosion that left a 47-year-old dead and many others homeless at a Ballina unit block on Friday night.

Emergency services rushed to the scene about 7.30pm but firefighters were unable to save the 1950s building on Ballina's Owen St, opposite Kingsford Smith Park.

After extinguishing the blaze, firefighters found the body of 47-year-old Michael Richard Karel near the back door of his ground-floor apartment.

Neighbours said the man bought the unit only recently, moving from Sydney about four weeks ago.

BALLINA EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: "EVERYTHING I OWNED IS GONE"

By Sunday afternoon police had finished their forensic investigation and concluded the likely cause of the explosion was the ignition of a 9kg gas bottle, Inspector Nicole Bruce said.

What may have caused the gas bottled to ignite was undetermined, Insp Bruce said, but foul play had been ruled out.

What we heard was like a bomb

- Neighbour Julie Panshon

The matter will now be investigated by the NSW Coroner, she said.

The blaze left the building a wreck with police deeming it "structurally unsound" as well as riddled with exposed asbestos. Its residents have been left homeless.

Insp Bruce said the Ballina council was expected to inspect the property today about a demolition order.

Neighbour Julie Panshon described sitting in the back garden when the explosion struck the block next door.

"What we heard was like a bomb," Ms Panshon said.

"The middle unit had just exploded... it took hold so quickly," she said.

The unit block at Owen Street, Ballina, after a gas bottle exploded in a downstairs unit.
The unit block at Owen Street, Ballina, after a gas bottle exploded in a downstairs unit.

"It's a pretty devastating thing to know there was someone in there who died... and others who've lost everything."

Nearby residents Steven Clifford and Sally Wooderson live almost 100m away but the explosion rocked their windows so hard they thought someone was banging on them.

Before rushing outside, they heard the block of units' windows "popping and cracking" as people gathered in the street.

"Power lines were just zapping and going everywhere," Ms Wooderson said.

"The street just flooded with people and then they (emergency services) blocked the street off," she said.

A Ballina resident looks onto what remains of his neighbours house after an explosion and fire at Owen St.
A Ballina resident looks onto what remains of his neighbours house after an explosion and fire at Owen St. Nolan Verheij-Full

Another neighbour, John Pearson, who lived in nearby Burnet St, recalled picking up a garden hose in an attempt to extinguish the flames.

"All the windows were blown up; the flames were already everywhere," Mr Pearson said.

"You couldn't get near it the heat was so intense," he said.

The street was blocked off with emergency personnel, and power was cut to the surrounding area as far away as East Ballina.

Topics:  ballina explosion, house fire




Is this the start of our Rural Renaissance?

Exports to the US have dropped 40%, China 30% and Japan 10%. China and Saudi Arabia have once more open their doors to Brazilian beef while Indonesia is now looking to Indian buffalo meat to boost its supplies

Rising prices the talk of the town as rain raises farmers’ spirits

Lismore picked to host world-class daredevil show in 2017

Oakes Oval in Lismore will host the sell-out, worldwide phenomenon that is Nitro Circus Live during its 15-city Australian tour in April.

Big boost to local business and big news for BMX fans

Do you think you have the cutest baby on the Northern Rivers?

Dad Tim Sherwin with his 3 year old son Levi Sherwin, who has been entered in the Baby Show.

Comp judges cutest baby, happiest baby and baby with longest lashes

Latest deals and offers

BOOKS: Food for thought in Caroline Beecham's latest novel

Maggie's Kitchen by Caroline Beecham is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99.

New novel reminds readers that bravery exists in many forms

TELEVISION: New show is a Survivor, for now

Jonathan LaPaglia hosts the TV series Australian Survivor.

WHAT happens when a new show with a big budget flops?

Rachel Weisz understands celebrity gossip fascination

Actor Rachel Weisz

Weisz says mystery is good for an actor

Gina Rodriguez relished dramatic change for new film

Jane the Virgin lead Gina Rodriguez

TV star shaved her hair for movie role

Opinion: Is streaming the way to go?

Online CD and digital music are starting to decrease

Branson "amazed" he's still alive after cycling crash

Branson saw "his life flash before my eyes" during a bike crash

REVEALED: Pat Rafter's $18m Coast house on the market

Check out the photos of the Coast's most expensive property for sale

The "correction we had to have" in Gladstone's rentals

UPWARD MARCH: The rental vacancy rate in Gladstone has improved for the first time in more than a year, providing a confidence boost in the market.

Vacancy rates improve with signs that things are getting betterF

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

Investors eye Gladstone's $4m island with resort approval

UP FOR SALE: Turtle Island is on the market.

CHINESE and Sydney investors flag interest in Gladstone island.

Take a sneak peek at this $19m Whitsunday mansion

Mandalay House features a private helipad.

Mandalay is currently on the market with an asking price of $19m