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Florida man severely burned while pumping gas

October 19, 2004

HIALEAH, Fla. --A man who authorities suspect was stealing gas suffered severe burns when a 300-gallon tank installed under the seats of his van exploded, destroying two gas pumps and the vehicle.

The man was apparently using a stolen credit card to buy the gas when the tank exploded, catching him on fire, police said.

An unidentified eye witness said flames covered the man as he ran from the gas station, but about 20 minutes after the blast relatives of a badly burned Sweetwater man called 911 for help, authorities said. The burn victim, whose name was not released, was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center, where he was listed in serious condition.

"This person was attempting to fill that gas tank and take it to who knows where and pump gas from there. This is the worst case scenario," said Luis Fernandez, of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. "If there were more people here at the time, we could have had multiple fatalities, and it could have been catastrophic for this area here."

A school next door to the gas station was evacuated after the explosion, but there were no injuries.

A witness told police that the man swiped a credit card through the machine at the pump, and there was an explosion almost immediately after that.

The car he was driving was engulfed in flame and charred. Two pumps and the roofing over the island were destroyed.

Fernandez continued, "Firefighters have seen this type of operation before. What they do is steel a credit card, fill the gas tank up and sell the gas at reduced prices in different communities. This is a very dangerous operation."

According to police, the suspected thief will face charges if he recovers from the accident.



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