Thursday, May 3, 2012
Warning to all who have Motor Homes, Boats, Cabins.
Sue is my granddaughter and her story is all about safety. 'It was the most pain I've ever felt' Sue McLeod, a bubbly 27-year-old lunch-delivery woman from Saanich, was delighted to purchase a 1988 Volkswagen camper van in early April. By Times Colonist (Victoria)May 10, 2007 It had a canvas pop top, a comfy bed and a propane-fuelled fridge and stove. She named it Ruby Tuesday. On April 21, McLeod was sleeping in her van outside a friend's Cobble Hill home when propane filled the vehicle and static electricity set the whole thing off. "The air ignited and then I woke up and jumped out of bed and was trying to open the door," recalled McLeod this week at Royal Jubilee Hospital's burn unit. "I was in a ball of fire and that's all I could see or feel." The canvas portion of the roof blew off and the windshield went flying. The blast and McLeod's screams awoke her friends, who rushed outside to wrench the van's buckled doors open. The flash fire burned McLeod's face, back and especially her hands. She was rushed to hospital, where a tube helped her breathe in spite of a swollen face and throat. "It was the most pain I've ever felt in my life," said McLeod. Surgeons put skin grafts on her hands and left elbow. Her face bubbled with blisters and peeled. "My face was like a surface burn -- they said I had a free chemical peel," she grinned. An investigation turned up a gas leak in the stove that resulted in propane filling up the van as she slept. There was no source of ignition in the van except static electricity, which could have been generated by her bedding. Today, McLeod is thankful to be alive and eager to alert others to the danger of propane leaks. Police told her that if the van hadn't exploded, she could have suffocated from the gas. "I'm feeling very lucky. Very, very lucky." The best safeguard against a similar mishap is having a propane detector installed in your camper, she said. "I want people to check their propane lines so they can prevent this, and get detectors," she said. "All of my friends, everyone I know, has gone and checked their propane lines. If I can prevent another accident, that would make me happy because it's scary, scary." McLeod's beloved van was a write-off. Still, despite her brush with death, McLeod hopes to replace it one day. "I want another one. I'll probably remove the propane tank altogether. I can just keep a camping stove in the van and cook outside." Rob Keeper, claims manager for B.C. Automobile Association, suggests checking propane-fuelled systems regularly, as you would the engine, brakes and tires. "I'm sure a lot of people think because everything worked fine last year, it will work fine this year," Keeper said. "But you have to watch for little things like corrosion or gaskets that fail." McLeod hopes to be released from hospital tomorrow and expects to spend four to six weeks at home recovering before heading back to work delivering lunches in Langford. She is well aware of how fortunate she is. "Everyone, everyone has said it's pretty amazing I've survived. Someone was looking out for me."