Australian "tradie" dies after work van explodes

It ought to send a chill down the spines of Aussie "tradies" everywhere.

A Melbourne refrigeration mechanic has died after his work van exploded in a suburban street, The Australian newspaper reports.

The explosion blew out the windows of several homes nearby, damaging about 20, and was heard over 3 miles away. 

The blast unsurprisingly also caused some horrific injuries to the man, believed to be aged 25.

The paper quoted paramedic Robert Jaske as saying that:

"His injuries were quite extensive and quite severe. From the waist up there were various penetrating and lacerating injuries to his torso and head from the blast and flying debris as well as flash burns.

“The burns themselves were not too severe ... but the internal injuries were quite significant.

“He was breathing by himself, but soon after ambulances arrived his heart stopped beating and it was re-started several times prior to being transported" to hospital.

Tradies — meaning "tradesmen," such as electricians (also known here as "sparkies"), carpenters ("chippies") and the like — are a common sight in big Australian cities, usually seen scooting around in pickups (known here as "utes" ... for "utility") and work vans. And yes, they are usually men.  

(For a fuller explanation, and a lesson in Aussie terminology, readers are encouraged to visit Tradies.net.au)

It is, however, highly unusual to hear of one dying after his own vehicle explodes in a suburban street. 

A witness, "Nadia" told Fairfax radio she head an explosion that sounded like a loud crack of thunder, followed by screams of "help." "It was terrifying," she said.

Neighbor Bill Cai said the explosion was so violent his house shook.

“We heard a big bang. The house was shaking, it sounded like an explosion. It only lasted for a second, then we heard helicopters overhead.”

Guiseppe Cosentino, 25, who worked for a plumbing firm, provided some insight into what might have caused the blast: He said the van laden with up to seven gas cylinders, according to The Age.

It added that:

Detective Senior Constable Mick Cashman, of the arson and explosives squad, said neighbors out for a morning walk heard a hissing noise before the van went up. A gas leak is the prime suspect but the ignition source is still unclear.

Jaske reportedly said the van was still smoking when the ambulance arrived.