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Explosion injures driver

A propane explosion Friday night left the driver of a Port-A-Pit Barbecue truck with second- and third-degree burns.

Donald Wayne Tew, 37, of Tampa had pulled his van into a storage compound next to the old Killian's Nightclub at 4235 W Waters Ave. and locked the gate behind him just before 8 p.m., said Hillsborough County Fire Chief Bill Kaplan. He was rolling up the door of the truck when a fireball erupted and engulfed his chest and arms.

Jerry Phar and three others were in the Killian's building doing maintenance work when they heard the explosion.

"We went out and we could see the fire shooting out like torches from both sides of the truck," Phar said. "It was torched right through the metal and coming out the sides. It was like one giant fireball."

Phar said the men asked Tew if he could get out, whereupon he threw his keys over the fence and the men let him out. Phar called the Fire Department on his mobile phone.

Kaplan said one of four 20-pound propane tanks in the back of the truck had leaked during transport. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Damage to the truck was estimated at $32,000, and the contents at $18,000.

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