Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Explosion, fire in St. Petersburg seriously injures two men

An explosion and fire Friday afternoon in St. Petersburg sent two people to Tampa General Hospital with serious burns. 


An explosion and fire Friday afternoon in St. Petersburg sent two people to Tampa General Hospital with serious burns. 

ST. PETERSBURG — Susan Karpus squeezed her partner's wallet in her left hand and his glasses in her right. Sweat and tears mixed together on her wrinkled white cheeks. Squatting on a curb, she stared at the spot in the parking lot where she had told Jose Alvarado he wouldn't die.

"He was all burned up," said Karpus, 62. "His skin was falling off."

She and Alvarado have been a couple for 15 years. They live together in a second-story apartment at 511 Highland St. N in St. Petersburg. Friday afternoon, Alvarado, 58, was helping a friend move furniture out of the complex's basement when, authorities say, they bumped into and possibly broke a gas valve.

A woman from Progress Energy happened to be auditing the building's electrical use at the same time. She smelled gas and insisted the men get away from the basement.

The men, both carrying lit cigarettes, walked back toward the building.

"She begged them not to go," said Jerry Burns, who lives across the street. "They didn't listen.

"As soon as they touched that sidewalk — boom — both of them fell back," Burns said. "It was like something from the sun blew up. It was one big ball of fire."

Alvarado, his right arm ablaze, stumbled across the street and collapsed in a parking lot. The other man, whose name was not available, was also burned, though not as severely.

After the explosion, he sat in the parking lot, still holding his cigarette.

Burns leaned over Alvarado. "Don't go out, Jose," Burns told him. "Don't go out."

Karpus was upstairs watching TV when she heard what sounded like a firecracker exploding. She rushed down to find Alvarado sprawled across the pavement.

Both men were flown to Tampa General Hospital. Alvarado was in critical condition late Friday night; the other man's condition was not available.

An hour later, Karpus wandered the sidewalk around her home, waiting for answers. The couple's 3-year-old yorkie, Charlie, trailed just behind her. She asked strangers for hugs. She told them how kind Alvarado was. How many friends he had.

"I love him so much," she said. "He's the world to me."

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at or (727) 893-8472.

Explosion, fire in St. Petersburg seriously injures two men 08/31/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 31, 2012 10:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' Doug Martin relying on strength from drug rehab to power his return


    TAMPA — He would not talk about the drug he abused. He would not identify the rehab facility he entered in January or how long he was there.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  2. NCAA: Former USF basketball assistant gave improper benefits


    TAMPA — Former USF men's basketball assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided impermissible benefits, including lodging at his home, for two prospective student-athletes while they received on-campus tutoring, according to findings reported to the school by the NCAA.

  3. Assault charge may not sway voters in Montana election (w/video)


    BOZEMAN, Mont. — Republican multimillionaire Greg Gianforte won Montana's only U.S. House seat on Thursday despite being charged a day earlier with assault after witnesses said he grabbed a reporter by the neck and threw him to the ground.

    People fill out ballots for the special election to fill Montana's only U.S. House seat at the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark on Thursday in Billings, Mont. [Associated Press]
  4. Quiet college dropout turned bomber: Who was Salman Abedi?


    LONDON — He was quiet and withdrawn, a college dropout who liked soccer — and, some say, showed alarming signs of being radicalized years before he walked into a pop concert at Britain's Manchester Arena and detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and 22 others.

    Salman Abedi was identified by British authorities as the man behind Monday’s attack.
  5. Soldiers launch attacks in besieged Philippine city


    MARAWI, Philippines — Backed by tanks and rocket-firing helicopters, Philippine troops launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear extremists linked to the Islamic State group from a city that has been under siege since a raid that failed to capture one of Asia's most-wanted militants.

    Soldiers fire at enemy positions Thursday while trying to clear the city of Marawi, Philippines, of armed militants.