At least 21 people were injured in an explosion in a north Queensland cafe on Tuesday. The freak blast was caused by gas cylinders that exploded after a pick-up truck or ute ploughed through the building.
Two out of the 21 are now in very critical conditions, having experienced massive burns in their bodies. They were identified as the driver of the ute and the daughter of the cafe’s owners. The 56-year-old driver suffered burns to 40 percent of his body, while the 37-year-old daughter suffered burns to 80 percent of her body.
The explosion occurred on Grigg Street in Ravenshoe, south of Cairns in the Serves You Right Café. It was a busy lunchtime when the fireball happened.
One local quoted by the New Zealand Herald described the incident as “something you see on television after a bomb or missile attack in the Middle East.” The air smelled of burning flesh. “Everyone was crying or groaning … part of the cafe completely blown out. And there was a vehicle still stuck in the side of the building.”
The accident shocked everyone. “Ravenshoe being a small community, everybody knows everybody,” Tablelands Regional Council mayor Rosa Lee Long told the ABC. “Even the fellow driving the vehicle that crashed into the gas bottle was a local fellow as well.”
Police are now investigating the cause of the accident. “We just don’t know what happened. We know he left the road … he’s clipped a couple of trees and then driven straight into the gas bottles. It’s really supposition what’s happened,” acting Police Superintendent Rolf Straatemeier said.
There is a theory that the driver could have suffered a heart attack before the collision. His car was seen being tossed into the air before it rammed into the café and set up the explosion and fire.