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Propane-Tank Explosion Injures Man, Destroys His Boss’ Home

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A man was injured and a Westminster neighborhood was rattled Tuesday when a propane tank under a work truck exploded. The blast threw the worker 30 feet into the street, destroyed one home and knocked out windows of others, authorities said.

Scott Graham, 24, of Westminster, who works as a screener for Ballistic Unlimited, a T-shirt silk-screening company in Huntington Beach, was in his employer’s driveway trying to convert the truck from a propane engine to run on gasoline, said Cheryl Malozsak, the boss’ wife.

Malozsak, who is nine months’ pregnant, said “there was a big white cloud of fumes all over the driveway. . . . I didn’t know what to do.”

Neither she nor her 15-month-old son was harmed, but their home was wrecked in the blast.

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Graham was rushed to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where he was in stable condition late Tuesday with burns to his face and hands, said hospital spokesman Michael Imaly.

Graham was working on the silver panel truck, parked in the 13000 block of Milan Street, when it was ripped into pieces and engulfed in flames by the explosion about 10:15 a.m.

“I’ve never heard anything like this. It was so loud,” said Barbara Miller, who lives next door and was watching television when the blast happened. “I thought it was a sonic boom until everything started busting.”

Five windows in her house shattered, and the bookshelves shook. She walked outside and saw Graham lying in the street.

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Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Paul Hunter blamed a leak from a 25-pound propane tank underneath the truck.

“Fumes had built up, and it finally found a source of ignition and blew up,” Hunter said. “It was a good-size blast.”

Malozsak said that she bought the truck several years ago and that it was the first time Graham had worked on it.

Bushes of yellow daisies in the frontyard were blown off their roots. Windows were smashed. The mangled garage door popped out of its frame. The cracked front door was thrown inside the house.

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The explosion twisted a green sport utility vehicle parked behind the truck. The Malozsaks’ one-story home was deemed uninhabitable by inspectors.

Ten other homes within a two-block radius were damaged, most sustaining broken windows, Hunter said.

Neighbor John Hutson was at work when he got a phone call that his windows were broken and the screens were hanging by their edges.

“It’s a nightmare,” said Hutson as he cleaned up his son’s bedroom. “There are cracks running along the walls, and everything was knocked off the shelves.”

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