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




Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

'My husband lasted 6 weeks as a stay at home dad'

APN Hey Mummy Feature for online - stock images. Katie Dykes being interviewed for the webisodes. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

FROM the outside, being a stay at home mum looks like a breeze.

THE EXPERT: Stop judging working mothers

SUPER MUMS: Being a working mums comes down to perfecting time management.

"WORKING for money is all right; so is working because you want to.”

OPINION: How to prepare your child for day care

Your kids will love childcare, but it may take some adjusting.

GETTING your child ready for day care is vital.

Health and nutrition with kids - how do you balance it?

HOW important is health and nutrition in your household?

Smack or no smack - where do you stand?

THE debate is reignited - is smacking acceptable?

Technology and kids: Do you ever cut their wi-fi?

Check out our new video series featuring mums having a chat

Doctor 'firmly advised' mother against home birth

An inquest into the home birth death of a baby at Nimbin is continuing in Lismore.

UPDATE: Inquest hears doctor was 'struck by the nonchalance'

MISSING PERSON: Have you seen Sarah?

18 year old Sarah McDonald.

She was last seen on Monday leaving the Lismore Library

Essential Energy in Nimbin to fix outage

Telstra outage is affecting Nimbin residents.

Outage is impacting around 110 fixed phone line customers

Latest deals and offers

PROPERTY BOOM: Coast prices set to skyrocket

Like other areas in south-east Queensland, the Sunshine Coast is at the start of the upturn on the property clock.

Values predicted to rise 25-33%

DIY: How to build a backyard fire pit

DIY stars and Weekend magazine columnists Ayden and Jess Hogan.

Would you build this for your backyard?