St Vincent's Private Hospital at Lismore.
St Vincent's Private Hospital at Lismore.

Gas explosion at hospital

A MAN was severely burnt and two women risked their lives after an explosion at St Vincent’s Hospital on Thursday night.

The 38-year-old Goonellabah engineer sustained burns to 60 per cent of his body and was airlifted to Royal Brisbane Hospital after a vapour explosion in the St Vincent’s Hospital boiler room.

The two female employees that heroically assisted the man and managed to turn off the gas supply amidst the explosion were uninjured.

About 40 patients and staff were also evacuated.

“At about 6pm an explosion occurred and as a result the engineer sustained severe burns to 60 per cent of his face, hands, arms, torso and legs,” Richmond Local Area Command duty officer Inspector Mick Dempsey said.

“The victim, though burnt, attempted to run towards the gas mains to cut the gas off but was unsuccessful.

“Two other female hospital employees came to assist and one succeeded in turning the gas supply off. (They) were not injured.

“(Their) actions ... minimised further threat of explosion and further injury.”

The NSW Fire Brigade and the Goonellabah Hazmat unit responded to the hospital’s fire alarm and managed to contain the fire to the boiler room which was damaged by fire, water and smoke.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Brisbane Hospital said late yesterday the man is in a ‘serious but stable condition.’

Neighbouring residents reported smelling ‘smoke and electrical burning’ at the time of the incident and one resident noticed ‘a fire truck from Casino, Country Energy trucks and flashing lights’ at the hospital for five hours.

The explosion was linked to a gas leak that occurred when communication contractors hit an underground gas pipe in a street near the hospital earlier that day which then disrupted the hospital’s gas supply.

Police and WorkCover investigators were at the scene of the explosion yesterday attempting to piece together exactly what happened.

St Vincent’s Hospital board chairman Frank Hannigan has offered his apologies to those affected by the explosion and says the engineer was acting in response to advice given to the hospital.

“When the gas leak happened advice was received that the hospital turn the gas off and later the hospital received advice to turn it back on and it was the turning on process that damage resulted,” Mr Hannigan said.

Two other female hospital employees came to assist



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