Fire Chief: Beachside explosion investigation pointing to pilot light

VERO BEACH — Fire Chief Brian Nolan said Tuesday the preliminary investigation suggests that the beachside apartment fire and explosion last week which left one man in critical condition most likely was a propane blast set off as he tried to re-ignite the pilot light on a stove.”What we have seen so far is consistent with trying to light a pilot and gas leaking at the stove,” Nolan said. He stressed, however, the investigation is not complete and there are more tests to be conducted. John DiMarco suffered third degree burns over most of his body from the blast and remains in critical condition at the burn unit in Orlando Regional Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said. Eyewitnesses to the event said that DiMarco was in the apartment when the explosion occurred and was trying help neighbors light a pilot light.

Also injured in the incident was 30-year-old Luciano Coto, reportedly with second degree burns to her upper body. She lived in the apartment with her husband, 29-year-old Justin Ryan Hamilton who was said to have received shrapnel injuries and was treated and released from Indian River Medical Center.

The hospital had no update on Coto’s condition.

Fire officials have condemned both four-unit buildings, displacing 10 residents.

Nolan recommends residents who have gas stoves to use caution when trying to ignite the pilot light. He said if the pilot light does not light after the first try, shut the gas off to the stove and, if possible, the gas line into the home.

Residents should then call their gas company and have them investigate.

“They’re the pros,” he said.

Nolan also warned that the propane gas is heavier than air and could settle to the floor, making it difficult to smell – even when the gas has been turned off, it could still be in the air and catch fire if exposed to a spark.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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