Man dies in fuel station explosion

2012-02-29 10:21

Bloemfontein - The owner of a fuel station in Vrede was killed and two of his employees were seriously injured on Tuesday in a huge explosion and fire that gutted the fuel station and next-door tyre company.

A gas bottle was believed to have exploded in the shop of the Mahem garage in Church Street, leading to the death of Nico Kotze, 48.

Free State police spokesperson Captain Harry Nagel said Kotze and two employees, Bongani Ndlebe, 26, and Stoffel Maduna, 27, were in the building at about 11:00 on Tuesday when the gas bottle presumably exploded.


A fire then started. Kotze apparently fell down as they were rushing out of the burning building.

The garage and adjacent company, Speedy Tyres, were gutted by the fire.

Kotze’s body was found after the flames were put out.

Ndlebe and Maduna were rushed to the Manapo Hospital in Qwaqwa.

They were in a stable condition in hospital later on Tuesday. Ndlebe had 35% burn wounds to his face, arms and chest, and Maduna had 20% burn wounds to his face and arms, as well as burns to his legs.

Several businesses in Vrede were temporarily shut and evacuated after the explosion. The area was closed off for safety reasons.

A resident said by late on Tuesday people were still not permitted to go near the buildings out of fear that the underground fuel tanks could explode.

Huge bang

Johan du Toit, owner of the gutted tyre company, said he was working in the office when he heard a huge bang.

At first he thought one of his workers had perhaps pumped up a tyre too much and it had burst. When he went outside, a cloud of smoke hung over the fuel station.

He then realised something had exploded.

He and his staff evacuated the premises and safely removed the vehicles.

Five minutes later the windows of his business were shattered and the building started burning.

He said the fuel station and his building would have to be demolished.

“I will probably only be able to do business again in six months’ time. All the stock burnt down and we will have to rebuild the building.”

Nagel said an inquest would be held into Kotze’s death.

A forensic team from Pretoria would investigate the cause of the explosion.

- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos.

  • john.h.viljoen - 2012-02-29 10:43

    condolences to the families

  • Janice - 2012-02-29 10:52

    What a terrible tradgedy, if only he hadnt fallen, he could still be alive.

  • Sizah - 2012-02-29 11:20

    poor employees, my prayers with u guys thank god he gave ya'll a second chance obviously u didnt deserve to die... can any good samaritarian out there please start a fundraising for these 2 young men for their medical bills????

      Marion - 2012-02-29 11:32

      @Sizah... I am sure you didn't mean to imply that Nico Kotze deserved to die. Why don't you start a fundraising initiative for these two young men instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

      Mikkel - 2012-02-29 14:24

      #TardSizah I'm sure the ancyl will help them out(NOTTT).

      yolie.Landa - 2012-02-29 15:35

      Sizah is being trolish guys. It is NOW a norm that on every post there should be a troll. Soon one will starty the race card seeing that the white died because of u Sizah,,,,grrrr. Your kind should only live in a cage where theres no internet:)

      John - 2012-02-29 17:03

      @Sizah.... Ever heard of workmans compensation?? My tax and yours if you pay.. contributes to their medical expanses...

      Pete - 2012-02-29 21:33

      Sizah, Their medical bills will be covered by Workmans Compensation, the fund needs to be started to help put food on the table until the WCA get their act together and cover the salaries they won,t be getting

  • kabelo.leballo - 2012-02-29 11:22

    condolences to Nico's family n we wish his employees a speedy recovery.

  • Marion - 2012-02-29 11:30

    So sad. RIP Nico. Sincere condolences to your family and friends. May the injured workers recover fully. Johan, I hope you have sufficient insurance coverage to help you rebuild your business.

  • Burtfred - 2012-02-29 12:03

    Poor bloke, poor family. The garage has an unfortunate name -Mahem garage?

      Mikkel - 2012-02-29 14:24


  • Hendrik - 2012-02-29 15:33

    "Mahem garage" in Vrede, If ever there was a very unfortunate name this must be it. Absolute mahem after the explosion, but not much peace in Vrede. Sad that one person was killed and two injured.

  • AG.Mogotsi - 2012-02-29 16:15


  • Amien - 2012-02-29 18:23

    hope Ndlebe and Maduna are well covered by the workmens compensation or by the owners insurance or family of the deceased May his soul rest in Peace surely he must have been a good man to employ the workers may God bless him

  • tony.hibberd - 2012-02-29 23:09

    Shame. So sad. May God comfort the families and those affected by this tragedy.

  • brionyl.french - 2012-03-01 05:56

    How unlucky?

  • Rudolph - 2012-03-01 07:15

    Rus in Vrede

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