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That’ll Wake You Up: Car Explodes At Gas Station Thanks To Leaking Acetylene Tank

That’ll Wake You Up: Car Explodes At Gas Station Thanks To Leaking Acetylene Tank

(Photos: Ryan Welch) In a combined 26 months of time spent in Iraq, both times in heated, tense months where things were very volatile, hearing bomb blasts was a common occurrence. Mortar shells just thumped unless they were close. Rocket impacts at the test range were pops. The car bombs, though…oh, man. We’re talking about a shockwave so fast and violent that your whole body has something to say about it. We’re talking about a blast so loud that you’re all but proof-positive you qualify for a legitimate VA rating for hearing loss. We are talking about a sound so loud and out of seemingly nowhere with no warning, that losing bowel control would be understandable. I’ve had my bell rung a few times over the years.

But I promise you, readers, there is always a spot to trump what you think is the “best of” moment. And without question, the sound of an acetylene tank exploding in the back of a car that’s parked right next to the fuel pumps at a Sunoco station is the ultimate trump card until you move on to nuclear events. I wouldn’t even be ashamed to admit that I needed a change of shorts at that point. A bomb going off at a gas station? You’ll see me move out like Usain Bolt hearing gunfire nearby, I can promise you that.

This happened in Lincoln, Rhode Island, when a plumbing company’s car rolled up to fill up with a tank of acetylene in the trunk that had a teeny, tiny little leak going on that nobody noticed…right up until the driver of the car hit the switch for the fuel cap unlock and suddenly all hell broke loose in a grand fashion. The driver of the car got a laceration to an arm and is expected to be alright, and a cop who was parked nearby was credited with keeping things from going full South Hell on everyone, running over with a fire extinguisher to douse the flames before a repeat of the Buddy Repperton scene from Christine took place.

The explosion is still under investigation as an “industrial accident.” Yikes.

Courtesy: WPRI.com

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10 thoughts on “That’ll Wake You Up: Car Explodes At Gas Station Thanks To Leaking Acetylene Tank

  1. bob

    Back about 1988 someone, while a t work, mentioned that filling a balloon with acetylene and oxygen would make a nice little boom. Well the boss sent me to a local store for some balloons and we had a cutting torch set up handy and you can probably guess what happened next. Set the torch like your going to cut some steel and then just turn off the tanks. When the torch tip is cool enough, simply put the balloon over the torch head and turn the tanks back on and fill up the ballon(s). The only thing we had for a fuse was toilet paper and it worked. The explosion that followed luckily only broke a few windows. The pain in my side from laughing uncontrollably lasted all day.

    1. Hippi

      we did the same thing but with an air mattress in a gremlin at a junkyard I worked at, to this day how no one died is still a mystery to me.

    2. bob

      Back in high school metal shop the gas welding tables were brick tops, and a fun trick to play on the geeks was to fill the bricks with acetylene and wait for them to light their torch and hunker down to lay a bead and BOOM!

      Something we would have done to a guy like you bob.

  2. Thomas G Breitfeller

    Many years ago I had taken some welding classes an the teacher used the baloon trick to show us how dangerous oxy acetylene can be.

  3. JP Verweij

    Acetylene cilinders are not shock proof…
    It you drop a filled cilinder it will decompose and heat up very quickly by chemical reaction with heavy pressure buildups till the bottle blows.

    Every welder knows, if it drops you have to throw the bottle in the river as quick as you can to cool it down and stop the decomposing.

    This bottle wasn’t leaking. It had been bouncing in the trunk till the moment was there..
    Just etimate, the heated up trunk by the sunny day and heat buildup from the inside made things happen faster.


      Everybody laughed when Teutel Sr. at OCC took the chain off the welding rig to use in the gym and the tank fell off the first time they moved it. Acetylene is one of the few gasses that can excite itself enough to cause a spark and explode. With that size tank, we could have lost the OCC and the filming crew. Please correct me if I’m wrong…

  4. Piston Pete

    My question is why would a plumbing company have a tank of any compressed gas in the trunk of a car?
    I’d like to think it was unusual circumstances, empty tank at a jobsite, $200 dollars an hour not being turned around, all trucks out on other jobs, get the office manager out there with a new tank pronto, etc. How many OSHA and DOT regulations did this little fiasco violate?
    BTW, it pains me to have to ask that last question, I was one of the guys passing out the ‘Cowboy after OSHA’ flyers back in the day, but it’s really better to have those tanks upright, that’s why there are rules that say so.
    I’m glad nobody was badly hurt, that’s a miracle.

  5. Brandon

    Whomever loaded that cylinder or whomever watched and allowed the driver to load that cylinder into the trunk should have some serious reparations.

    Thats cylinder transportation 101, on an absolutely basic level.

    I worked for a place that dealt with a lot of cylinders for rent and sales. The boss had a picture of an incident he was involved with (volunteer firefighter) that was deja vuu of this. It was a late 70s ford/mercury 4 door boat that had a cylinder light off and blew the back half of the car literally off to the frame, and the tank shot into the car beside it (early 70s catalina) and tin-canned the back passenger door to the tail lights.

    The worst part about it was the gent brought it home, didnt get it out of the car, got busy with who knows what, and his wife and grandchild jumped in the car to go run errands. When she put it in reverse, boom. The only thing left of them was one shoe and purse.

  6. Tim

    I worked in a nuclear power plant under construction a long time ago,and when we finished our work in one section they moved our work group to a new section in a pipe tunnel 100 feet underground. When I got down there, there was a 55 gallon drum with a guy sitting on it smoking a cigarette. I looked at the the drum and it was hydrozine and it was full with a unbroken seal left there by a cleaning crew.I told the guy to get off the drum and get far away from the drum and dont put the cigarette out on the concrete next to the drum. everybody was wondering what my problem was as I was trying to get everybody out of the tunnel. I yelled at them that it is rocket fuel and to get the hell out till the drum is removed or we die!. The tank in the car trunk does not surprise me as I have seen a lot of stupid things done by people.We were lucky that the 55 gallon was still sealed,If it weren’t the out come might have been different with the guy with the cigarette.Bang shift had a movie about hydrozine a while back.

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