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Boy's Shirt Blamed for Static Explosion

"The young boy only had to touch a metal or earthed object for a spark to be
created, which then ignites any inflammable gas."

Dr. Paul Holdstock

Paraphrased by:
Steve Waldrop
December 8, 2003

The family of a 13-year-old boy who was badly burned in a fire on board a yacht suspect that static from his football shirt may have sparked a gas explosion.

Sam Borley from Cardiff, Wales was unconscious for 48 hours and suffered 45% burns to his body in the blast, which happened aboard his uncle's boat . He was sent to the burn unit of a local hospital for treatment.

His father Terry was also hurt in the incident, which is believed to have occurred after a butane gas burner was left on in the yacht. A woman also received minor burns.

There is no definitive proof the synthetic shirt did cause the explosion, although a textiles expert has said it was a possibility.

Sam's father had gone on board with him to turn the gas off and open the hatches, and the blast occurred just seconds later.

The yacht was left split along one side, all the doors were blown off and the bulkheads were badly damaged.

The owner of the boat and the boy's uncle, Peter Borley, explained why the family believes the explosion was caused by the shirt. "We are amazed, but there seems to be no other cause. I've been on board myself since, there is explosion damage in the hull, but very little fire damage, with the exception of Sam's shirt which we have got the remains of now," he said.

Static electricity scientist Dr. Paul Holdstock of the Manchester-based British Textile Technology Group said it was possible the synthetic shirt could have caused the explosion.

"The garment only needs to be rubbed against something to create a electric charge. The garment then produces an electrical field which passes into the human body which is acting as a conductor. The young boy only had to touch a metal or earthed object for a spark to be created, which then ignites any inflammable gas," said Dr. Holdstock.

Dr. Holdstock said that the problem existed in most man-made fibres, such as polyester and nylon.

A fire service spokesman also said static electricity has been know to spark an explosion, but it did not happen very often.

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