Man badly burned when garage explodes

9:42 AM, Jun 10, 2013   |    comments
Palm Bay firefighters kept the garage fire from spreading to the rest of the home. RICK NEALE/FLORIDA TODAY
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PALM BAY, Florida - A man was burned over 60 percent of his body Sunday night when his fume-filled garage exploded so violently his neighbors said it sounded like "a train wreck" or "a car accident."

The explosion occurred just after 7:15 p.m. in the 1300 block of Waffle Street SE, rattling residents of the residential lane off San Filippo Drive.

"A witness reported seeing his neighbor on fire and running out of the house," said Yvonne Martinez, Palm Bay police spokeswoman.

"Family members of the man immediately fled the home and took the victim to the hospital," Martinez said.

The victim was hospitalized and later airlifted to an Orlando burn center, she said.

Three other people were inside the home when the garage blew up, Martinez said. Damages were estimated at about $20,000.

"Fire investigators learned the victim was siphoning fuel out of a vehicle with a 'shop-vac.' The closed garage filled with vapor, and it's believed a spark from the vacuum ignited," Martinez said.

She did not have information on the victim's identity or medical condition late Sunday.

Courtney Laliberte, 18, heard the explosion and tried to grab a garden hose.

"I ran around the side of my house, and I just see the whole garage on fire, the car and everything. It was crazy," Laliberte said.

Another neighbor, George Xenakis, was tending his garden in his backyard and ran to help.

"It sounded like a train crash," he said.

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