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Mike Hamlin, father-in-law of a Pelham man critically injured in a bob house explosion early Sunday morning, unveils the cover he had just placed over the bob house's blown-out wall. (DAN SEUFERT PHOTO)
GILFORD — A Pelham man is in critical condition at a Boston hospital with second-degree burns Sunday after a propane heater explosion in his bob house injured him and a companion.
Ryan Gagne, 26, of Pelham was flown to Brigham and Women's Hospital with severe burns to his hands and upper body. Friend and co-worker Kevin Fitzpatrick, 25, of Manchester was treated at Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia.
Gilford Fire Chief Stephen Carrier said the 2 a.m. explosion caused a flash fire that blew one of the walls nearly 15 feet from the 8-by-8 bob house, which Gagne had placed a few hundred feet from shore at Smith Cove on Lake Winnipesaukee.
"These guys were extremely lucky that they were not injured more severely and that they were close enough to shore to get help quickly," Carrier said.
Gagne, who runs Gagne Landscaping in Pelham, was being kept sedated at the hospital, said Mike Hamlin, Gagne's father-in-law, who lives in Gilford. Hamlin said doctors aren't sure yet whether Gagne suffered inhalation wounds as well.
"We don't know yet whether he's going to be alright," Hamlin said. "It's very serious."
Hospital spokeswoman Erin McDonough said he was in critical condition Sunday afternoon.
Fitzpatrick said he slept through the explosion.
"He (Gagne) must have got up to turn it on when it got cold and the valve was left on apparently," said Fitzpatrick, who had second-degree burns to his hands. "I just woke up to him panicking and freaking out. I didn't hear the explosion or anything."
Fitzpatrick, who works with Gagne, said they had gone to Gilford Saturday and planned to spend the night in the bob house while trying to catch some fish.
"We're definitely lucky to be alive. That's for sure," Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said a neighbor who heard the explosion ran out onto the ice and helped the injured pair to his home and called for an ambulance. Fitzpatrick said Gagne's hands were badly burned but he was conscious as they waited for help.
"I was talking to him, trying to calm him down," Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said the two had already been to Lakes Region General Hospital earlier in the day. Fitzpatrick received seven stitches to his head from an injury he suffered as they tried to adjust the bob house using a jack.
Gagne bought the bob house a few weeks ago.
"He had been talking about bringing the bob house up to go fishing, and he was really looking forward to sleeping in the bob house," Fitzpatrick said.
Hamlin said Gagne, who is married and has a child, was burned severely in part because his sleeping bag caught on fire.
Hamlin, who said he has been in the heating business for more than 40 years, said he was worried about the small bob house's propane stove.
"I told him be careful of that heater," he said. "I never liked the idea of them sleeping with that heater so close."
Firefighters said the incident should serve as a warning to anglers who will be participating in the Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby next weekend.
"There is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning with gas stoves in such a small space. If it had not exploded, they could have been killed by the fumes," said Fire Department Lt. Jeff Madon.
"It points out that you can never be too careful," Carrier said. "Many of the bob houses on the lake have some type of heat source, and, whether it is wood or gas, if it is not used or installed correctly, it can create a hazard."
Staff reporter Doug Alden contributed to this report.