Canberra school explosion: Early evidence points to gas canister explosion

| 03.08,18. 06:11 PM |

Canberra school explosion: Early evidence points to gas canister explosion

Photo: Members of the school community laid flowers and prayed at the scene. (ABC News: Jake Evans)

Photo: Support will be offered to students affected by the tragedy (ABC News: Jake Evans)

Police are pointing to a leaking gas canister as the potential cause of a freak explosion which killed a Canberra father in the car park of his child's school.

The man was critically injured by the explosion just before 5:00pm on Thursday, which appeared to have happened towards the back of his white tradesman's ute.

He later died in hospital.

Children in an after-school-care program were inside the school at the time of the blast, and it is understood the man had arrived to collect a child.

Police have been at the school since the explosion, and the man's car has now been removed from the scene.

Officers said the incident was not suspicious, and that early investigations pointed to a leaking gas canister as the cause of the explosion.

Worksafe ACT will work with police to prepare a report for the Coroner.

The school's principal Matthew Egan-Richards said the man was being remembered as an active member of the community.

"There were quite a lot of children here at outside-of-school-hours care, but our staff did a brilliant job in ensuring those kids were immediately removed," he said.

"When it occurred we had a couple of staff very quickly out there offering some immediate assistance."

The man has not been publicly identified, but Mr Egan-Richards said he would be missed.

"He was a down-to-earth good bloke," he said.

"He was certainly well known in the school community and liked."

Teachers' bravery praised

Tradesman Justin Box was working at the school when the explosion happened.

"I heard a massive bang … I stopped what I was doing and sort of wandered around a little bit," he said.

"I noticed there were some teachers sort of scurrying. There was some kids outside, they seemed to be getting the kids back inside.

"I knew it was pretty serious when I saw from a distance that a teacher was giving chest compressions to somebody.

"By that time police, fire brigade, ambulance, everybody was there."

Crews from Worksafe ACT and ACT Policing worked into the night to investigate the blast, erecting a fence around the scene.

Before the scene was closed off, a large hole was visible on the side of a white ute parked at the school.

As a sign of the force of the blast, a ladder was blown from the top of the ute and left twisted and broken several metres away.

Mr Box said he was impressed with how the school's teachers reacted to the tragedy.

"I feel more for the teachers that were there on the scene," he said.

"They were there straight away."

School begins healing process

Mr Egan-Richards said while the school was closed on Friday, he had been busy preparing support for the school community.

"It is hard to explain in many ways because we're talking about children ranging from five to nearly 13," he said.

The school would also provide support to the dead man's family.

"Lovely family, very supportive of the school and very involved with the community," he said.

"That was obviously a very difficult time for the family.

"We will continue to provide that support."


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