Two hurt in gas blast

2010-12-13 00:00

UNIVERSITY friends James Souchon (22) of Durban and Matt Owen (21) of Greytown were severely burnt in a gas explosion at a rustic Drakensberg holiday cottage they were sharing with friends on Saturday morning.

The privately owned holiday home at Monk’s Cowl burned to the ground.

The other occupants all escaped injury.

Because their car ignition keys were also destroyed in the blaze the students — who are all studying at the University of Cape Town — had to call a taxi, which rushed them to a nearby Drakensberg resort where they were able to get help.

Souchon and Owen plunged into a nearby stream to cool their burns before being put in the taxi.

Souchon was in a critical though stable condition in the intensive care unit at Entabeni hospital last night, while Owen was reported to be in a stable condition at Netcare St Anne’s Hospital.

Owen’s father, Terry, a medical doctor in Greytown, said his son is showing no signs of any complications, but said he faces a “long road” to recovery.

Souchon’s father, Daniel, said the details of the accident are still vague.

Although his son is able to communicate with his family he is not “out of the woods” yet. The next 24 hours are regarded as critical.

Souchon, a former Michaelhouse pupil, is believed to have suffered 65% to 70% second-degree burns.

Owen, a former Hilton College pupil, suffered second degree burns to 38% of his body, according to his father. “He sustained burns to his arms, legs and face,” he said last night.

Dr Owen told The Witness that his son celebrated his 21st birthday on November 16 and had been planning a party.

His other son, also called James, witnessed the explosion.

He said the cottage where the students were holidaying had no electricity. It appeared that a gas cylinder required for cooking purposes may have been faulty.

“They apparently battled to open it and when they did, gas started escaping.They then were unable to tighten the valve again.”

He said his son, James, told some of the other occupants to leave the house and went to check that no candles remained lit in any of the rooms.

“They forgot that the fridge was also gas and the pilot light [flame] was on. As my son, James, walked back into the kitchen the whole room exploded. Matt and James Souchon were the closest and took the full impact of the explosion,” he said.

The doctor praised the actions of a nurse at Champagne sport resort, who put the injured men into an ice bath and administered first aid while awaiting the arrival of paramedics from Netcare.

“We have been overwhelmed by support,” he added.

Souchon was airlifted to St Anne’s by Netcare helicopter and later transferred to Entabeni.

The Ntsele emergency services ambulance brought Owen to St Anne’s.

Police spokesperson Captain Charmaine Struwig said police attended the scene of the accident, but at this stage no docket has been opened.

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