Bystanders were 'filming a woman on fire' - Gardens Centre gas explosion witness

A Gardens Centre employee who assisted restaurant employees who had suffered serious burns after a gas explosion at the Cape Town shopping centre said she was traumatised when she saw a kitchen staff member "running around on fire".

The shopping centre was closed on Thursday afternoon after nine people were injured in the gas explosion at Pulp Kitchen.

On Friday, a maintenance team boarded up the outside of the eatery. Cleaning staff mopped up what remained of the water damage.

ALSO READ: Nine injured in gas explosion at Cape Town mall

The woman, who works at one of the nearby stores, said she had heard what she thought was a bomb. People had run off in all directions, she recalled, but those wanting to assist had returned when they saw one of the women on fire.

"I saw her. Her skin…it was coming off. They had to spray her with the fire extinguisher. She kept lifting her hand, but she couldn't even cry. We tried to help two other people who had also been burnt by cutting off their clothes."

A Netcare 911 spokesperson said that two people had been seriously injured, while seven others had also sustained burn wounds.


The centre was evacuated and the fire was extinguished.

On Thursday afternoon, a statement from centre management said the shopping mall would remain closed for the rest of the day "out of an abundance of caution" and to enable emergency services to work. It was open on Friday.

Elizabeth Hilarides had been at American Express while her family members were at other stores in the shopping centre, when she heard what she initially thought was a bomb.

She said the flames had gone over her husband's head while he stood in the bookshop next to the restaurant.

"It felt like an earthquake because everything was shaking. Then I heard two explosions," she said.

She saw her mother, a qualified nursing sister, run towards Pulp Kitchen, where she and a security officer extinguished the flames on the seriously injured employee.

Public's response 'sick'

The skin on the woman's arms, hands, neck and legs was gone, Hilarides said.

"She was saying to my mom: 'Why me, why me? I think I am going to die now'. She didn't want to hold on."

Hilarides said she had run to Clicks for emergency burn care products as the "pathetic first aid kit" didn't have any. But when she got to the store, she discovered everyone had "run off".

Emergency services arrived within 30 minutes.

Hilarides said while there was chaos at the shopping centre, what was more upsetting was the response of the public.

"They were filming a woman on fire. It's sick. I couldn't get over it," she said.

The shopping centre on its Facebook page on Friday said it would "coordinate with Pulp Kitchen to find out what can be done to help while they recover".

The restaurant remained "closed for now".

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