Explosion at Ogunquit restaurant was caused by human error, ‘possible violations of state law,’ fire officials say

Posted June 27, 2014, at 4:57 p.m.

OGUNQUIT, Maine — Two days after a propane explosion blew windows out and injured two employees at Captain’s Catch, the Ogunquit Fire Department ruled the cause of the explosion human error.

“It was not a leak,” said Ogunquit Fire Chief, Dave O’Brien. “Human error was to blame.”

According to O’Brien, the wrong valve was turned on and was pumping gas into the building when Christopher Graham, a Wells resident and second-year employee at the restaurant, tried to light the stove with a lighter.

The blast caused burns on his lower extremities and, given his location at the time of the blast, burned his face and ears and, due to inhalation of the heated gas, his lungs and throat.

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O’Brien said he remains unconscious, as of Thursday, at Maine Medical Center while healing takes place.

Another employee there during the time of the explosion, Allison Soucier, also of Wells, was transferred to Maine Medical Center as well with burns on her lower extremities. She has been released.

According to the Maine fire marshal’s office, the explosion was largely due to an inexperienced employee, but the York County district attorney’s office will investigate whether or not equipment violations existed.

“There were possible violations in state propane laws,” said Sgt. Joel Davis of the Maine fire marshal’s office. “We’re addressing those with the DA’s office.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was called to the restaurant but found no violations and no charges are pending.

As for code violations, O’Brien said an investigation is pending as something was disconnected that should have been in place.

According to O’Brien, the restaurant was due to open for the season this Tuesday. The gas hadn’t been turned on since last season, he said.

The property was turned back over to its owner on Thursday and O’Brien said the damage was largely cosmetic, given the quick flash of the ignited gas, although the code enforcement officer and O’Brien will insist a structural engineer inspect the property.


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