Fuel was gushing from a vent pipe connected to the storage tank at the service station in Union Island before it exploded around 6:40 p.m. Tuesday.
Samuel “Debique” Saxon, 54, whose property located next to the service station was destroyed in the blaze, told iWitness News on Friday, that he had just told an employee at the gas station about the leak when the explosion occurred.
Saxon owned and operated a café at the location, which he also used as the headquarters of his organisation, Roots Connection Culture Club. The property, which was some 30 by 20 feet also had a space for the teaching of traditional drumming and dancing.
He also makes and sells drums there.
Saxon told iWitness News that his shop is located very close to the gas station, and the storage tank for the filling station is at the back of his place, with a wall separating both properties.
He said he began smelling gas as he soon as he entered his shop on Tuesday evening.
“So I came out and then I realised I began to get small sprinkles coming down on me — like little drops like rain drops falling on you,” Saxon told iWitness News.
“So I went back into the shop and I smelled the scent stronger and stronger. So I came out and I begin to feel the same light drops so I went around my shop to look and I saw where there is a pipe from the storage facility going up like a vent with a thing on the top.
“And there was gas spouting left right and centre, spraying down the back of my building, the entire sea water area was already soaked with gas.”
Saxon said he ran to the gas station to tell the owner.
“On my way, [I saw] the girl that got burned — she normally works with the gas station — so I called to her and said, ‘Go and tell Freddie that the gas is leaking and causing a mess.’
“She proceeded to tell him and I left going back to my shop. Half of the way, there was this loud explosion; instantly, ‘Boom!’ and it pushed me back. And that’s where it began.”
He said shortly after, the young lady who he had told to warn the owner about the leak came out of the building on fire and people were trying to help her.
“And there was explosion after explosion. That is how it began. Simple as that,” Saxon said.
Police said on Wednesday that Lindani Neverson, 12, sustained second-degree burns about his body while his Union Island Secondary School schoolmate, Shaniqua “Azaria” Alexander, 17, sustained second and third degree burns.
Freddy Naert, 72, the owner of Freddy’s Gas Station, where the explosion occurred, sustained first degree burns about his body.
Saxon said he assumed that the gas was being pumped from the tanker into the storage facility
“What was unusual, it was the first time I had seen the gas going through the pump in such volume and when I looked, it seemed as if it was going on for quite a while…
“So the moment the explosion went ‘boom!’ everything was engulfed in flames.”
He said that the two children who were injured work at the gas station from time to time.
“The reason I told the girl to tell him is because she normally works there. And she went to tell him.”
Saxon said that within 45 minutes of the blaze, his business was flattened and the fire took about six hours to quell.
Several buildings in the gas station compound, including a hardware store, were destroyed, according to information reaching iWitness News.
Saxon said he was still trying to determine the value of the contents of his business that the fire destroyed.
The building contained craft items as well as some 40 drums at various stages of completion.
He said that six years ago, the government had placed a value of EC$42,000 on the property, which was a plywood structure on concrete foundation.
“I am deeply involved in culture. I make drums, I repair drums, I teach drums so I have all sorts of stuff in there for people and also my personal effects.”
He said the loss would have a great impact on him.
“We are already in this crisis (COVID-19 pandemic) and my wife is not working, my son is not working and I am the only one who was bringing a small income in. And now, all of that is lost. I lost all my tools, all my equipment — so many things,” Saxon said.