Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 6th 2016 Contents A5
Saturday, February 6, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
GML ENTERPRISE DESK
Energy Minister Nicole Olivierre says she is "very
concerned" about a second explosion involving North
Plant LPG and has mandated almost immediately
that an investigation be conducted into the incident
which left four people injured.
Olivierre told the GML Enterprise Desk that "it is
the second incident within a year almost to the date"
and she finds it a "very strange coincidence."
On Thursday, during a refuelling of propane gas
near Kleen Rite Dry Cleaners, at Mucurapo Road, St
James, an explosion destroyed the building and also
damaged another paint business.
She said the investigation would determine "whether
the LPG storage tank on the site had the necessary
approvals, talk to the operator about the equipment
which was used, look at the health and safety practices
of the company, interview the driver and determine
whether standard guidelines and procedures were fol-
She said, "We have already identified the inspector
to conduct the investigation and part of the investigation
would include the report from the fire services."
Olivierre said her mandate was to improve and
strengthen the regulations of the sector.
"I have two inspectors from my Petroleum Asset
Monitoring Unit who are on site and they would be
working with the fire services to really ascertain what
caused the fire and how we can put better procedures
in place in the future, to prevent something like this
from reoccurring," she told reporters during a site visit
to an exploratory rig at the Petrotrin oil fields, Fyzabad,
Olivierre said she was troubled that the driver of
the gas truck involved in Thursday s incident was
identified as the driver of the truck involved in a similar
fire at El Pecos, Royal Palm Plaza, Maraval, one year
to the date. In the El Pecos fire, 11 people were injured
and one man, John Knolly Soo Ping Chow, died four
months later from the injuries he sustained.
The energy minister has oversight of the operations
of LPG companies under the Petroleum Act and she
said one of the "obvious things which relate to refilling
LPG storage tanks is the time it is done and this must
be looked at, because there are inherent risks involved.
One may want to look at refilling when there are less
persons around the facilities." She added, "Some of
these tanks are located in the mall and there may be
need to vary when they are refilled."
Olivierre said the investigation into the El Pecos
explosion was not yet completed "because the forensic
aspect has not been completed because of ongoing
issues at forensics. The full report is still outstanding."
---with reporting by Yvonne Webb
Employees of Kleen Rite Dry Cleaners
yesterday described the gas delivery driver
as a hero after he alerted them to danger
moments before an explosion and the fire.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian yes-
terday, Cheryl Ann Joseph, who has been
employed at the company for the past 14
years, said she along with the other workers
all knew the driver, identified only as Mr
Neville, very well.
"He has been coming here for years and
we never had a problem with him. In fact,
on almost all the occasions we have seen
him checking to make sure that everything
is good and safe before refuelling of the
tanks are done. If he thought something
was not done correctly or whatever wrong
he would say and try his best to make things
right," Joseph said.
The driver, who is an employee of North
Plant LPG Limited, Gaston Street, Chagua-
nas, was confirmed to be the delivery driver
at two explosion scenes---one last year, on
February 5, at El Pecos, in Maraval, and the
other at Kleen Rite on Thursday.
The confirmation came from an official
at the gas company to CNC3.
T&T Guardian was told by one of the
workers, who asked not to be identified,
that earlier that day (Thursday) a man came
to service the tanks.
"Apparently, PVC fittings were used and
when Neville came he pointed it out. Neville
also said that he was smelling gas very
strong and upon checks discovered that
there was a leak. I think that it was at that
point that Neville knew something was not
right and things were about to get worse
when he ran inside and shouted gas, gas
and that everyone should run for their lives,"
the worker said.
Yesterday, at about 1 pm, workers began
gathering at the adjacent NP gas station s
compound waiting to see their boss,
Solomon Ali. However, they were told that
he was not coming and that he had sent
their pay packets.
"I really thought that we would have seen
Mr Ali today because we are so looking for-
ward to talk with him. I m a bit disappoint-
ed," Joseph said.
"Mr Ali is a kind man and is very good
to us but it is sad that he has not spoken
to us up to now (yesterday afternoon)," she
"Yes, we know what he is going through
right now, especially that his wife got very
deep cuts and is hospitalised but Mr Ali
should show a little more care towards us
because we are the ones who worked in
dedication for him and now we are left
without jobs," said another worker.
Another worker, Sade O Bradley, who is
pregnant, said that she has been working
with the dry cleaners for over 14 years and
was sad to see the establishment, which is
over 35 years old, go up in flames.
"It is a sad day for all. We have a clientele
of thousands and they have been calling
and lending their support. At the end of
the day, no lives were lost but at the same
time we are all left without jobs and an
uncertain future due to this tragedy,"
O Bradley said.
Fire Sub Officer Ishmael Noel who was
a part of the team of fire officials that visited
the scene, yesterday, said that it was too
early in their investigations to disclose infor-
"What we did here today was carry out
an inspection but while we, the fire officials,
will lead the investigations to finding the
cause we would need to depend on other
agencies to step in," Noel said.
Thursday s explosion not only destroyed
Kleen Rite but also affected the nearby Sher-
win Williams paint shop and a small busi-
ness company, Small Engine Services Lim-
In a brief interview yesterday, Ali said
that the incident was devastating and was
trying to regain his composure. He said his
wife, Sabrina Ali, was still recuperating from
her injuries at hospital.
probe into explosion
Gas delivery driver
hailed as hero
Chief Fire Officer Kenny Gopaul said the
explosion at the Kleen Rite laundry brought into
question whether the premises where LPG tanks
were installed were properly certified by the
relevant authority which resides with the Ministry
of Energy that has oversight under the Petroleum
While the investigation by the fire services is still
underway, Gopaul said the initial investigation
revealed that "it may have been the result of
defective installation. Work was done on the
installation during the week and it was not
properly recertified." He said business owners
needed to ensure that they complied with OSH
Gopaul told the GML Enterprise Desk that the
handler on that site was "a hero, he realised
something was wrong and he immediately ran into
the building and alerted everyone. They were able
to run out."
But there is another growing problem which the
fire services is concerned about He said with the
growing number of nuts vendors with carts with
open flames, there was a danger in that they could
explode at any time." Gopaul said: "The entire
public is put at risk when we violate the laws."
POSSIBLE DEFECTIVE INSTALLATION
Several attempts were made to
contact Kerry Maharaj, the managing
director of North Plant LPG, on the issue
but he was unavailable.
North Plant LPG is the supplier for 17-
20 per cent of the LPG market. The
other 80 per cent is held by Ramco. An
official of Ramco, Lochan Samsundar,
told the GML Enterprise Desk that there
were clear guidelines from the Ministry
of Energy on the procedure for refilling.
These include that before filling a tank
the provider needs to ensure that the
tank is properly certified or recertified
for use. The stamp with the date
indicating this is usually at the top of
the tank on the shroud which protects
National Petroleum said it also has a
checklist and issues safety certificates
to LPG distributors when their trucks
pass inspections. However, NP explained
that LPG distributors are fully
responsible for the conduct and
operation of their business operations.
The general inspection of LPG
equipment and ensuring compliance
with safety requirements are the remit
of the Ministry of Energy, the only
authority with such powers.
Fire investigators back at the scene, yesterday, a day after an explosion which destroyed Kleen Rite Dry Cleaners along Mucurapo Road,
St James, on Thursday. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
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