A fireball exploded and reached past the height of a Walmart Superstore in Deming was caused by a distracted driver who choked on his food while behind the wheel. The truck collision injured three people on Saturday.
Robert Sheppard, a 61-year-old of Hachita, told police that while he was driving and eating in front of the superstore, he unexpectedly began to choke. At which point he lost total control of the pickup truck he drove.
Chief Brandon Gigante told reporters on Monday that the pickup was traveling at a high rate of speed prior to losing control. It then slammed into a white sports utility vehicle filled with three people and ricocheted towards the east entrance of the store. At this point it smashed into a propane tank that was attached to a grill, causing a massive explosion.
Robin Saucedo, a 40-year-old who was operating the grill managed to leave the scene with her life, but sustained serious burns on her body.
Witnesses told authorities that as soon as the truck struck the propane tank some catalyst ignited the propane causing a fireball that reached way above the roof of the building. On video recordings of the incident all that showed was a white mask at the time of the explosion. Authorities said this happened because the fireball was bright.
Authorities stated on Monday that Dirk Barris, a 33-year-old man, from Deming near the two-vehicle wreck suffered burn injuries on his body. The seriousness of his injuries was reported as “severe.”
Sheppard was injured at the time of the collision as well but the severity of his injuries was not disclosed.
All of the people in the white SUV walked away from the wreck without injury.
Propane tanks do not explode easily, it takes human error to get them to this point. They are equipped with an array of safety devices to prevent them from going off. It is more difficult to get them to blowup than humans think. In this case there were a few factors leading to the large explosion. First, it was plugged in and reportedly operating, second it was slammed with hard force. The tank itself did not explode sending pieces of metal everywhere. Instead it was dented at the time of the collision, which caused a large burst to escape within moments to an already open flame.
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