Gas explosion felt like an earthquake, says resident

LYN Treanor had been busy preparing dinner just seconds before the tremors of a gas explosion ripped through the floor of her Owen Street unit at about 7.30pm on Friday night.

Her son, Julian Treanor, 26, had just driven back from university on the Gold Coast and her 10-year-old grandson Callum Treanor was enjoying his visit.

"Suddenly there was this massive, unbelievable explosion," she said.

"It knocked me, and I managed to grab hold of the sink.

How to help

  • A Facebook page has been set up to help the residents of the Owen Street unit block. Residents are in need of things such as accommodation, money, and any good quality clothes, furniture, appliances, or utensils.
  • Ballina solicitor Clarissa Huegill has set up a trust fund for her staff member and "good mate" Susannah Poole, who lost everything in the fire. Anyone wanting to donate can do so at: The Susannah Poole Trust Fund, CH Law Trust Account, ANZ Bank Ballina, BSB: 012528, ACC: 495921345

"It kept reverberating, the energy from that was just so strong and immediately I thought earthquake, because I had lived in Japan."

"Already the heat was coming up… smoke was coming out," she said.

"I rang triple 0 and said 'I'm sure there's a man trapped downstairs', because I knew that's where it had happened."

The Treanors evacuated the unit, flames already visible from the staircase.

Half way down, Julian turned around and ran back into the unit to grab a shirt, phone and wallet.

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

"The 30 seconds to a minute I was back in the building… I could really feel the heat coming up from the floorboards and then by the time I got out the door it was pitch black smoke everywhere," he said.

Ms Treanor said several residents tried desperately to force open the door to 47-year-old Michael Karel's downstairs unit, the source of the explosion, but to no avail.

After the flames had been extinguished, firefighters found the body of Mr Karel near the back door of his downstairs unit.

The block of units has been gutted. The residents that escaped, escaped with their lives and little else.

Whether or not any of the objects can be salvaged is still unknown. The building is unstable, asbestos riddled, the contents most likely damaged by smoke and chemicals.

Topics:  ballina explosion editors picks house fire

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