MOUNT PEARL, N.L. – It was, says Stefania Butler, like a scene from a movie.
First, a sudden, massive bang.
Then, debris everywhere — and the roof flew off the building across the street at Trimac National Tank Services.
Butler’s office knick-knacks fell off the wall as the building started shaking.
“I was sitting here working away and all of a sudden the debris went,” Butler said Tuesday from Billard’s Trucking, across the street from Trimac in the St. John’s, N.L., suburb of Mount Pearl.
“It was just like something you’d see in a movie. I was very surprised more people weren’t hurt.”
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said nine people were believed to be inside Trimac during the blast at 8:20 a.m. local time.
Const. Geoffrey Higdon said three people were taken to hospital, but he couldn’t speak to the nature of their injuries.
The roof of the building was blown off, with insulation and metal scraps strewn across the parking lot. Some of the large metal pieces landed dangerously close to fuel tanks stored nearby.
Rick Dehann, acting deputy chief with the St. John’s Regional Fire Department, said the people taken to hospital were moving about when he arrived.
Dehann said he was amazed to find all employees outside and accounted for, in relatively good shape.
“Looking at the extent of damage to the building, there’s always the foreboding I guess in the back of your mind that there’s significant injury and or casualties,” said Dehann.
“But to our amazement and utter joy, I guess, the people were safe.”
Acting platoon chief Scott Tilley said it appears the employees were working on a fuel tank that contained gasoline or a petroleum product and the fumes may be to blame for the explosion.
Damage is extensive due to the force of the combustion, but most of the vapour was consumed by the explosion, meaning there was little fire.
Mount Pearl Mayor Dave Aker says he lives about a kilometre from the Kyle Avenue business and felt his entire house shake.
“It was a little bit scary,” said Aker.
“The sentiment that I’m hearing from the residents of Mount Pearl is that they’re concerned about the people that were working in the building or nearby. For the rest of us, it seems to have just been more of a scare from the vibration and shock of the explosion.”
Dehann said RNC is looking into the case now, and it will likely be a few days before the scene has been properly assessed after interviewing staff and assessing the site.
Dehann couldn’t say what workers were doing at the time, but likely some combustible material was on site.
“Because it’s a tank servicing facility, likely there was some combustible residue in a tank,” said Dehann.
“It is an industrial park so there’s, you know, a mixture of different potentialities in there,” said Dehann. “So that’s just another one of them.”