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Elderly couple make lucky escape after common mistake leads to huge camper explosion


An elderly couple was left scorched after making a very common mistake that caused their camper to explode and damage their home, car and several other properties nearby.

Barbara and Robert Hamlin, aged 74 and 75, had parked their camper outside their upstate New York home and woke up to the pungent smell of gas after accidentally leaving the camper’s stove on.

Within minutes of the discovery, the camper exploded knocking Hamlin to the ground and causing him visible burn injuries to the face.

State police in Lafayette were contacted and found Spafford emergency services already clearing the remains of the camper in their search for Mrs. Hamlin.

When they located her, she was conscious but had suffered a broken ankle. The couple was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse for treatment.

The camper was completely blown apart in the blast and several properties in the surrounding area, including the Hamlins’ home and Chevy Silverado 2500, were damaged.

Hamlin later suggested they had left their propane tanks open after leaving the camper, causing the vehicle to flood with gas – ultimately causing the explosion.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 2,100 emergency room admissions caused by exploding propane tanks recorded between 2020 and 2022 averaging 700 a year.

Earlier reports suggested incidents linked to propane tanks averaged 600 a year – suggesting a considerable increase in such accidents in recent years.

Patty Davis from the CPSC noted current figures are an estimate based on the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System hospital use to report consumer product-related admissions.

Davis said the official figures are based on a sample that does not include product-related incidents that don’t result in hospital visits.

The Department of Energy estimates that the chance of a person dying because of a propane tank explosion is currently one in 37 million as the tanks are normally equipped with safety devices to avoid such incidents.

The explosion of propane tanks is mostly related to two principal causes – either they are left open or pressure within the tank hits a point at which it cannot vent safely.

The phenomenon, known as a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, normally occurs when a tank is exposed to extreme temperatures that cause the gas inside to expand to the point of bursting the canister open.

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