Rockingham, VT – A 55-year-old Rockingham man suffered severe burns on his face and one of his legs Wednesday night and was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital burn unit.
Peter Diliberto, 55, was injured when a propane tank he was using to heat a tent and cabin tipped over, setting the tent on fire and eventually setting off a series of explosions, said Tom Diliberto, his younger brother.
Peter Diliberto received third-degree burns, he said.
I heard an explosion like dynamite, and I knew my brother didnt have dynamite, he said. It was like a bomb. There was a plume and a mushroom cloud 100 feet in the air. There was a plume of black smoke. Things were exploding left and right.
The fire at 101 Parker Hill Road in Rockingham brought departments from Rockingham, Bellows Falls, Springfield and Westminster. Tom Diliberto said he called the fire in at about 6:50 p.m. and then tried to find his brother, but the explosions kept him away.
Rockingham Fire Chief Denis Jeffrey said Peter Dilibertos tent caught fire and then ignited the back side of the cabin. He said Diliberto was transferred to the hospital for burns.
Im not sure what happened, but I think he was trying to light a propane heater, Jeffrey said.
Peter Diliberto was first taken to Springfield Hospital, then transferred to Massachusetts General burn unit, his brother said. A spokeswoman for the hospital said he was listed in stable condition.
Tom Diliberto said hospital officials told him his brother would survive his burns. He said his brother was disabled and living in the small cabin on land near their familys home.
Tom Diliberto was inside his carriage barn across the road when he heard an explosion, and he ran outside to see a massive plume of smoke in the sky in the vicinity of his brothers cabin. He immediately called 911.
It was like a war zone with all the explosions, he said, adding he was worried about telling their 90-year-old mother Rosemarie, who lives in a nursing home, about the accident.
I dont want to upset my mother, he said.
They said he should recover, Tom Diliberto said, but added his brother could no longer live by himself, roughing it.
Hes not safe to live alone, he said.
The 12-by-18-foot cabin is damaged but fixable, he said. Tom Diliberto said he built the cabin in 2007 and his brother moved in a short time later.
He said his brother lives off the grid and heats his cabin and a nearby tent with propane. He said the successive explosions were probably used propane canisters.
He had them stacked up like lumber, Tom Diliberto said.
He said his brother had been living in the cabin since he went on disability in 2007. Before that, Peter Diliberto worked for his father, Armand Diliberto, at Chester Auto Body.
Hes was a very good body man, his brother said.
Tom Diliberto said he was amazed at the quick response by the fire departments and Golden Cross Ambulance in getting his brother to the hospital.
They did the best job Ive seen, he said. They were right on it.