Police and WorkCover at the scene of the gas explosion at St Vincent’s Hospital in April.
Police and WorkCover at the scene of the gas explosion at St Vincent’s Hospital in April.

Gas explosion victim on the mend

MAN who received burns to 60 per cent of his body after a gas explos-ion at a Lismore hospital has returned to the Northern Rivers after spending two months in the Royal Brisbane Hospital.

John McAlister, of Goonellabah, was working as an engineer at St Vincent's Hospital on April 29.

He went to turn on the gas in the hospital boiler room when a fire ignited and he was severely injured. He was later airlifted to the Royal Brisbane Hospital.

It is believed the fiery explosion was caused by contractors who, while doing underground work in a nearby street, ruptured a gas main.

St Vincent's Hospital was advised to switch off its gas supply, and waslater advised it could turn it back on

That is when the explosion happened.

Mr McAlister and two nurses at St Vincent's were hailed as heroes for turning off the gas when the fire ignited, preventing a major explosion and possible loss of life.

A WorkCover spokesperson said investigations into the incident were still continuing.

St Vincent's Hospital board chairman, Frank Hannigan, also said the cause of the explosion could not be attributed yet.

After initial investigations, The Northern Star discovered Elgas, the owner of the ruptured gas main, was not a member of Australian utility referral service, Dial Before You Dig.

It is believed the contractors did not know the gas main was there because they called DialBefore You Dig, which did not have any records of Elgas's mains.

Dial Before You Dig NSW/ACT state manager, Dominic Puiu, saidElgas registered their utilities just days after the explosion.

“I can assure you they are members now and we were receiving referrals in June so it's up and working,” Mr Puiu said.

As of July 1, it became mandatory for companies with underground utilities to register with Dial Before You Dig.

The Northern Star was unable to contact Mr McAlister.



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