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Second man injured in Gilford bob house explosion wakes up

Union Leader Correspondent

February 04. 2013 6:55PM
Kevin Fitzpatrick is recovering at his Manchester home after he was injured in a bob house explosion on Lake Winnipesaukee early Sunday morning. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

GILFORD - The Pelham man who was severely burned in a bob house explosion on Smith Cove early Sunday morning did not suffer any gas or heat-related inhalation burns and is expected to make a full recovery, family members said.

Ryan Gagne, 26, of Pelham, woke up for the first time Monday since the propane heater in his newly purchased bob house exploded on the ice of Lake Winnipesaukee shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday, according to his sister, Ashley Gagne.

Gagne suffered second-degree burns to his hands and his upper body in the explosion, which was sparked when Gagne apparently woke up and tried to light the stove, according to his companion in the bob house, Kevin Fitzpatrick, who was also seriously burned but was released from a Laconia hospital Sunday.

Gagne was flown by helicopter to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, where he was listed in critical condition Sunday. On Monday, as he was sedated, doctors lowered a probe into his lungs to look for burn damage but found none, Ashley Gagne said.

"He woke up today," she said. "They expect him to recover fully, though he'll have to have some skin grafts on his hands, and it looks like a long recovery."

Gagne, who runs Gagne Landscaping in Pelham with Fitzpatrick, is having some problems dealing with his injuries, his sister said.

"He feels lucky to be alive," she said. "But him just sitting on a bed with nothing to do is not good. He's the type of person that needs to be busy."

"I just thank God the whole bob house didn't blow," said Gagne's father, Richard Gagne.

Fitzpatrick was recovering at his Manchester home Monday, having suffered second-degree burns to his hands and head, some of which have partially closed one of his eyes.

In Gilford, authorities were still investigating the explosion Monday. An investigator from the state Fire Marshal's office was at the bob house in the morning, said Gilford fire Lt. Jeff Madon.

Investigators are looking into whether the propane heater and its accompanying propane cook stove were installed with proper attachments, and whether the bob house was vented properly, he said.

Fish and Game Lt. Robert Bryant said propane heaters and cookers are not uncommon in bob houses on lakes. Other heating sources are also commonly used, such as small wood stoves, he said.

State and local authorities neither recommend nor discourage the use of propane stoves, though they strongly encourage proper use of any heating source on the ice, he said. Fumes from many heating sources, if not vented properly, can be lethal.

"People use (propane stoves) all the time," Bryant said. "They just need to be careful that all the hookups are tighter, and that whatever the setup, there is no excess gas anywhere."

Bob houses are not subject to safety inspections. "They're basically just like tents as far as we're concerned," Madon said.

"We can't tell people whether to have one kind of stove or another, all we can do is tell people whatever they use, make sure they install it properly, or have it installed properly. Obviously there are plenty of perfectly safe, operational systems out on the ice now."

Investigators are looking at whether Gagne's bob house was vented properly. There was one manually operated vent at the top, but propane stoves need venting low in the bob house, as propane sinks.

"I'm not sure if that vent would have helped," Madon said.

"That's all part of the investigation."

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