An upstate New York couple had a rude awakening when their camper exploded on Monday morning.
Barbara and Robert Hamlin, ages 74 and 75, respectively, woke to find their camper filled with the smell of gas. Robert Hamlin suggested his wife had turned on the camper’s stove, which caused the explosion at around 10:54 a.m.
State police in Lafayette responded to a 911 call reporting an explosion, arriving to find emergency fire personnel trying to clear out the back of the camper to find Barbara Hamlin.
Robert Hamlin had been standing outside the camper when it exploded and was knocked to the ground, suffering visible burn injuries to his face. His wife suffered a fracture in her left ankle but was conscious when first responders found her.
The explosion also caused significant damage to the surrounding area, including the outside of the couple’s home where they had parked their camper and Chevy Silverado 2500.
Robert Hamlin advised that the couple had left their propane tanks open overnight, which would have flooded the camper with the gas. The camper itself did not survive the explosion, with the back end completely blown open.
Emergency responders took the couple to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse for treatment, and both were admitted with non-life-threatening injuries.
Patty Davis of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) told Fox News Digital that the commission had recorded around 2,100 emergency room admissions between 2020 and 2022 related to exploding propane tanks, averaging 700 a year – which would indicate an increase in such incidents from an earlier figure citing 600 a year.
The CPSC uses the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which emergency rooms use to report any consumer product-related admission so that the commission can track these issues. Davis stressed that this number is only an estimate, using a sample that statisticians extrapolate to the total number the commission reports.
This does not include the total number of such incidents since some do not result in an emergency room visit.
Davis could not speculate on why the total number of incidents may have increased or what caused these incidents.
The Department of Energy reported that despite the number of total explosions, the chance of a person dying from a propane tank explosion is about one in 37 million.
Connecticut-based oil and propane company LEVCO wrote on its blog that bringing a propane tank to the point of an explosion “is a very difficult task” due to the safety devices and mechanisms in place.
The two main causes of such explosions are, usually, that the tank was left open – as was likely the case with the Hamlins – or that the pressure inside the tank reaches a point at which it can no longer safely vent, which causes the tank to burst open.
The pressure issue, known as a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, occurs when the tank itself is exposed to extreme heat and the liquid inside expands as a result.
The Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education in 2020 reported that roughly 47 million households in the United States use propane for outdoor gas grilling alone, with a report from 2017 stating around 830,000 farms in the U.S. use propane for a range of tasks, including crop drying and milk sterilization.