Last week, a van filled with gas exploded along a Vancouver street during rush hour — and it turns out the people involved have a Tri-Cities connection.
According to the Vancouver Police Department, the two men in the van walked into Eagle Ridge Hospital later that night suffering from serious burns to their upper body, arms, hands, head and face. As of the weekend, the pair from Coquitlam, one aged 19 and the other 25, were still in serious condition.
Vancouver Police Department spokesman Const. Brian Montague said the incident is being investigated by the department’s hit-and-run and financial crimes sections, but so far no charges have been laid.
He noted the suspects’ injuries, which are severe, have prevented investigators from speaking to the pair.
Montague noted police are trying to answer a number of questions, including what the men were doing prior to the incident, where they got the gas and how they got the van.
The incident began during rush hour on Oct. 7 when a white panel van on fire rear-ended an SUV as the vehicles travelled south on Oak Street. The van mounted the curb and crashed into a cement retaining wall.
Police said the fire and resulting explosions appear to be the result of the van illegally containing large containers and quantities of gasoline.
“It’s something you don’t see all the time, that’s for sure,” Montague told the Tri-Cities NOW.
“Is it something we’ve seen before? Absolutely. Anything you can sell easily … anything that people will buy, there is a market for and if you can obtain it for free, and sell it below market value and there’s a market, than you’re going to make some money.”
The incident is also eerily similar to an explosion that involved a van filled with gas containers in Port Moody back in July.
On July 5, a van parked in the McDonald’s parking lot on St. Johns Street exploded.
A young woman was treated for burns at the hospital.
Inside that van were two separate tanks hooked up to electric pumps to move gas from one tank to another.
Each tank was estimated to be about 200 litres in size, though they weren’t full at the time. Fire investigators believe the explosion was triggered by build up of vapours and the heat at the time the woman started the vehicle.
However, the tanks in that case did not explode.
Police said at the time the investigators were looking into the issue around the safe storage of fuel rather than it being criminal in nature.
But a Port Coquitlam company that deals with fuel services and storage suggests the theft of gas is a growing problem.
Kelly Grehan, the president and owner of Hiway Fuel Services, said his company has alerted several of its clients to gas thefts over the years.
“The price of gas is on everyone’s radar screen, it’s an expensive commodity,” he said.
The company does onsite fueling delivery and management to fleet vehicles.
Grehan noted in some cases the thieves are siphoning gas by drilling out the gas tanks.
In other instances, crooks are using credit cards to steal gas.
The company’s owner suggested businesses with vehicle fleets lose two to three per cent a year to gas theft.
The theft of gas is not only costly; it can be dangerous, at least for the thieves.
Montague said the results for the suspects in the case of the Vancouver incident speak for themselves.
“If you’re someone in this line of work doing this type of thing, then the danger level is much higher than the average person driving down the street,” he said.
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