Northfield man critically injured in explosion was harvesting brass from propane tank
NORTHFIELD – The man who suffered life-threatening burns to his face and upper body in a propane explosion Monday night remained in serious condition in a Massachusetts hospital's intensive care unit Tuesday.
Authorities said Keith Dame, 38, of 25 Granite St., was using a power tool to cut into a 30-pound propane cylinder to harvest and sell the brass from the cylinder's lining.
Rescue crews were called to Dame's yard at about 9:30 p.m. Monday after a report of a fire in his yard and a victim, Dame, who had suffered burns to his face, said Tilton-Northfield Fire Prevention Officer Capt. Timothy Joubert.
Dame was found in his yard with a few of the cylinders – the type used for outdoor grills – and had been using an electric grinder to cut into them.
"He was taking the metal from the cylinder to make a profit," Joubert said. "He had an assortment of tools, and there were other cylinders there. This one still had fuel inside and blew up on him."
The fire from the explosion was quickly extinguished by firefighters, but Dame was left in critical condition with burns to his upper body and face, Joubert said.
"Anytime you're dealing with fire burning the face, it's very serious, it can badly damage your wind tube and other vital areas," Joubert said.
Fire officials would not say if Dame was awake and alert after the explosion. He was taken to Franklin Hospital and then flown by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was in serious condition in an intensive care unit on Tuesday, hospital officials said.
Dame is expected to survive his injuries, police and fire officials said.
Joubert and several other fire chiefs Tuesday said they had never heard of a similar case.
The Propane Gas Association of New England had not heard of such a case either, though people have been known to tamper with cylinders and the cylinder's equipment.
"The problem is that there is no sure way to tell how much gas is left in a cylinder," said Joseph U. Rose, the association's president.
"We feel for this man and his family, but it is critically important for all propane consumers to take this message to heart: Don't tamper with gas tanks at all. The gas is very flammable."
Joubert and Rose said it's unlikely that much money can be made from the small amounts of brass in the cylinders.
"There are workers at the dumps that won't touch these things when people bring them in, they know how dangerous they are. You just don't know how much gas there is left in them, there's no way to tell, and removing the equipment is something that only a professional can do safely."