Bluffton man dies after propane tank explodes, reminder for safe outdoor grilling this season

BLUFFTON, Sc. (WSAV) – A Bluffton man has died after the propane tank connected to an outdoor grill exploded outside of his home in the Hampton Lakes subdivision Sunday evening.

The victim has been identified as 70-year-old Joseph Michalcewicz. Joy Nelson with the Bluffton Police Dept. said “the initial report is showing that the propane tank that was attached to his grill – exploded uh causing injury to him and quite a bit of destruction to the house,” Michalcewicz died at the hospital from the sustained injuries.

Neighbors described the loud explosion, saying they thought an airplane had crashed outside of their home.

But as the weather warms up, this tragic incident serves as a reminder.

“We are getting into the season where everybody’s wanting to start grilling,” said Randy Hunter with the Bluffton Fire Dept., “What we recommend is that they follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.”

“It could be as easy as having debris or food inside the grill that could start a fire, specifically propane tank, it’s gonna have a lot to do with the lines,” said Nelson.

Hunter says it’s important to always check the entire grill before starting it.

“Anything as far as corroded lines from the line to the interior of the grill, make sure that the grill is clean, make sure that the burners are not corroded if it’s an old grill,” he said.

“I’ve done it myself where you think the burners lit and it’s not, you open it up, ‘oh it’s not lit’ and you hurry up and light it again and all that build-up of propane underneath that the grill uh kind of flash fires,” Hunter said.

He says the most important thing to do if you have best thing to do if you have any doubts is to shut off the gas immediately and call a repairman to check it out.

SLED is currently investigating the exact cause of the propane explosion.

A full check list provided by the National Fire Protection Assoc. is provided below:

Before using the grill:

  • Check the major connection points between the gas (propane) tank hose and the regulator and cylinder, and where the hose connects to the burners. Tighten if loose.
  • Check the gas (propane) tank hose for the potential (gas) leaks. To do that:
    • Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle.
    • Turn the propane tank on. If there is a gas leak, the propane will release bubbles around the hose (big enough to see).
    • If there are no bubbles, your grill is safe to use.
  • If there are bubbles, turn off the tank and check connections, then have your grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
  • If the leak doesn’t stop, call the fire department immediately.

When using the grill:

  • As you are cooking, if you smell gas, turn off the gas tank and burners.
  • If the leak stops immediately, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
  • If the smell continues, move away from the grill and call the fire department immediately. Do not move the grill.

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