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Man Dies From Injuries Sustained In Roane County Explosion

Reported by: Send eMail Kera Mashek, Dan Matics
Videographer: Shelby Spradling
Reported: Jun. 10, 2014 9:53 PM EDT
Updated: Jun. 16, 2014 9:09 AM EDT
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Roane Co. Explosion
Eyewitness News Photo

Speed , Roane County , West Virginia

A Roane County man has passed away after an oil drum exploded near him earlier this week.

State Fire Marshals say Charles or "Chuckie" Starcher died in the burn unit Saturday evening of Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Tuesday afternoon they say he was using a blow torch to cut apart an old oil tank for scrap metal.

Fire marshals say in the process, crude oil ignited causing an explosion.

Starcher was only 24 years-old.

==
A man was hospitalized after an explosion in Roane County in the town of Speed.

The 24-year-old victim was in critical condition at Cabell Huntington Hospital after the incident that occurred about 3 p.m. Tuesday. The state fire marshal's office said he was using a blow torch to cut apart a tank for scrap metal, when crude oil inside ignited.

"Just a loud boom and then I looked up and saw the smoke that was going way up high in the air," said Harlan Drake, who lives near where the explosion happened.

That boom came from these two tanks lined with crude oil. It didn't take much of the spark from the victim's blow torch and the heat of the day to catch that oil on fire. Witnesses think flames were shooting up to 40 feet into the air.

Harlan Drake said the tanks only recently showed up on this property.

"They just moved them in over the weekend so I heard," Drake said.

A 15-year-old was watching as the fire broke out and he suffered minor burns on both arms, but from the time EMS crews arrived, the 24-year-old's condition appeared dire.

"The ambulance was sitting in the road and that's when they was loading him and had him on a stretcher and had him covered up, all you could see was his head. He was burned bad and his skin was just falling off of him," Drake said.

The state fire marshal's office is investigating the incident and said it's a reminder of being careful when trying to scrap this kind of material.

"The unfortunate part of it is these folks that get these types of tanks in, and they're not always very sure where they come from. So with that being said, they're not always sure what's in the tank. Even the smallest amount of an ignitable liquid inside the tank can give off enough vapors for a flash fire," said West Virginia Assistant State Fire Marshal Shawn Alderman.

There also is concern about environmental contamination from the oil explosion with both the soil and a nearby creek. But so far, no word on what agency might be looking into that potential threat.



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