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.

Gas leaking from bottle into unit caused explosion, cops say

THE VIOLENT explosion and fire which effectively destroyed a block of units at Owen St, Ballina, and killed 47-year old Michael Karel was caused by a build-up of gas from an open gas bottle, police say.

Inspector Matt Kehoe yesterday told media the 9kg gas bottle had been found in the unit in an "open position". The comment clarifies earlier suggestions the gas bottle itself exploded.

Insp Kehoe later confirmed the gas bottle was found intact and it appeared to be gas that had escaped the bottle into the surrounding unit that exploded.

Mr Karel's body was later found near the back door of the ground floor unit.

Inspector Kehoe said while for good reasons it wasn't common for people to have gas bottles inside the home, gas-related explosions did happen "from time to time".

"We would obviously encourage people particularly when they're dealing with gas to not have them within an enclosed area," he said.

"Outside its far easier for any leaking gas to disperse."

The site was fenced off on Saturday afternoon and a licensed asbestos handler was engaged by Ballina Shire Council.

Yesterday the two-storey unit block was inspected by insurance assessors to establish whether it would require demolition.



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