Fatal blast when worker uses lighter to peer into flammable drum

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 25, 2011 2:59 PM
Fatal blast when worker uses lighter to peer into flammable drum

SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts (Reuters) - A worker died in a fiery explosion at a Massachusetts car dealership after he apparently used a cigarette lighter to illuminate the inside of a 55-gallon drum of flammable cleaning solvents, authorities said on Friday.

Daniel Martinez, 33, was killed in the blast at Balise Honda in West Springfield on Wednesday morning, said Deputy Fire Chief Robert Manchino. Another worker suffered smoke inhalation.

While speaking by cell phone with a chemical supplier, Martinez ignited the lighter to check the level of auto cleaning solvent inside the drum. The barrel exploded and was propelled about 30 feet into the air before it struck the roof.

"We found him quickly, but he was already deceased," Manchino said.

Investigators used video from a surveillance camera to determine what caused the explosion and fire. Martinez was a contract worker at Balise employed by Real Clean Automotive Detailing.

Firefighters fought the intense blaze for more than an hour. The fire was continually fueled by multiple barrels of chemical solvents at the site.

(Reporting by Zach Howard; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)