One dead, 5 missing and presumed killed after Ottawa explosion

2022-01-14 18:58:00

One person is dead and five others remain unaccounted for after an explosion at a building in Ottawa’s south end Thursday.

The explosion and major fire at Eastway Tank on Merivale Road sent three people to hospital, including two in critical condition. One of those people has since died, police said Friday morning.

Police say four men and one woman remain unaccounted for. It’s believed they were at the building when the explosion occurred.

Police are not releasing their identities, but say their families have been notified.

“It’s not believed that any survivors will be found,” Insp. Frank D’Aoust told reporters Friday.

Recovery efforts are underway at the heavily damaged site, he said, along with an investigation into what caused the explosion and fire.

Thursday evening, police were asking all employees and families to attend a reunification centre at Woodvale Pentecostal Church on Greenbank Road. Family members could be seen comforting each other outside.

Emergency officials remain at the scene Friday morning. The Ministry of Labour, Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office and coroner’s office are all investigating.

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson tweeted his “deepest condolences” to the family of the employee who died, and asked residents to pray for the families of the five employees who are unaccounted for.

“No words can take away the stress and devastation as these people await news about their relatives and friends,” Watson tweeted. “My sincere thanks to our first responders for their tremendous efforts to save lives and contain the fire under very difficult conditions.”

‘Thought it was an earthquake’

Flames and black smoke could be seen coming from the commercial building on Merivale Road at approximately 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Ottawa Fire Services officials said 911 callers reported hearing an explosion before seeing 15-metre flames shooting through the roof of a structure.

Coun. Tim Tierney said he was visiting a city of Ottawa facility metres away from the building when the fire started.

“I actually thought it was an earthquake at first. The ground was shaking and then suddenly, seconds later, suddenly I hear the bang,” Tierney told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

Three people in the building at the time were taken to hospital. One has since been released from hospital and the other is in serious but stable condition, police said Friday.

One firefighter was also treated for minor injuries.

Crews brought in heavy equipment Thursday evening to help suppress the fire. Ottawa Fire Service Acting Chief Paul Hutt said there was no danger to residents in the area.

“As we suppress the fire, there is water runoff that is occurring as a result of us putting water onto the fire. I want to assure residents there is no concern – we have our HAZMAT team on location,” Hutt said Thursday.

According to the company’s website, Eastway Tank, Pump & Meter Ltd. Is a custom manufacturer of tank trucks for both the North American and International markets.

‘I hear a loud bang’

Witnesses reported hearing a loud “bang” before the fire started.

“I was serving a customer, just finishing up with her and I hear a loud bang. Next thing I know there’s a very large cloud of black smoke,” said Jesse Headland, who works at nearby the Francis Gas Bar.

“It’s coming up ‘yay high’ and eventually I do see some flames hiding behind the truck. Probably the biggest thing I’ve seen in my nine years working here.”

Amanda Fung is the owner of the Country Place Chinese Restaurant near the scene of the fire.

“I’m sitting eating my lunch and I smell smoke. When I went out to look at the window outside I saw lots of big flames.”

– with files from Tyler Fleming and Jackie Perez, CTV News Ottawa

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