Aptos, CA – By Cathy Smith, Sentinel A couple in their 50s were badly burned Thursday morning in a gas explosion and were airlifted to a burn center, firefighters said.
Gas leaked into the couple’s Campus Drive home overnight, and a match struck to light a candle sparked an explosion that blew out windows and sent shocked neighbors running to their aid.
The two were taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said Battalion Chief Jeff Terpstra with the Aptos/La Selva Fire Protection District, adding the woman’s injuries appeared critical and the man’s serious.
It’s unclear how the propane leaked in, Terpstra said, but the blast blew out most of the windows and cracked walls in the small home off Cathedral Drive with what he called “significant explosive force.” At least one wall was pushed out 8 inches, he said.
Both residents suffered serious burns, including some that appeared to be third-degree, he said, though the woman was burned over most of her body and her partner’s burns were limited to his lower body. The unidentified victims have adult children in the county and they were with their parents Thursday afternoon, Terpstra said.
A neighbor said the woman’s daughter was going to be married in San Francisco Thursday or today.
Terpstra said the dynamics of the explosion kept the fire to a minimum. Firefighters were able to concentrate on helping the people, who were conscious and in a lot of pain. “Both suffered significant burns,” he said. “… It’s pretty sad.”
How the propane got into the home was still under investigation, he said, adding that investigators were puzzled the gas was not detected, because typically a component is added to natural gas and propane that makes it smell like rotten eggs to ensure it’s noticed.
Neighbor Delia Gilligan said she and her son and another neighbor were the only ones home in the neighborhood when she heard an “incredibly loud” explosion. She ran out to see flames coming from one part of the home and smoke coming from the roof. She and the other neighbor called 911, she said, and all three helped put hoses on the flames and wrap the woman in a blanket.