A Corentyne man was tragically killed yesterday after a boiler exploded, blowing a gaping wall in a nearby storage bond of a rice factory.
Dead is Phillip Gangaprashad, a 50-year-old boiler operator and father of three from Number 47 Village, Corentyne, Berbice. The death is being viewed as an industrial accident with several millions in losses also recorded from the damage to the Buddy Tulsi Rice Factory at Number 49 Village. A number of workers also suffered minor injuries.
The explosion rocked the neighbourhood with residents of nearby villages saying that they felt it about a mile away.
According to a co-worker, Roderick Cornelius, he was busy with his duties when he heard a loud explosion, shortly after 07:00 hrs.
He instinctively took cover behind a concrete wall, with wood and other debris flying all around him. When he recovered, he saw the operator’s badly burnt body lying on the ground not far away. The force from the boiler’s explosion had thrown him against a wall. The boiler itself had been lifted from its foundations and hurled backwards, but not before knocking out the entire front wall of the bond, located 40 feet away in the opposite direction.
The shed under which the boiler rests had been badly damaged. So were several bags of paddy in the bond.
Cornelius said that Gangaprashad, who he described as a seasoned operator, had been feeding the boiler at the time with “boosi”, which is waste matter from milled paddy.
Gangaprashad’s supervisor Junior Richardson, who witnessed the explosion, was in a state of shock when this newspaper visited the location. He said he heard a loud bang and saw Gangaprashad’s body lying motionless next to the boiler in the compound of the rice mill.
“I ain’t got no idea how it happened—the police [are] investigating it,” he told this newspaper.
Richardson said he picked up the man’s lifeless body and rushed him to the Skeldon Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
At the home of the dead man, his shocked wife, Banmattie, 43, said her husband of 24 years left the night before to work at the mill.
It was around 08:00hrs when the family received news from a cousin of the operator that he was badly injured in an explosion. The cousin had been working there also at the time.
The operator, Kaieteur News was told, was still alive while he was being rushed to the Skeldon Hospital, further up in the Corentyne Coast. However, he succumbed shortly after. He had suffered extensive burns and wounds from the explosion.
The family said that the operator is highly experienced and not a permanent staff of that factory. Rather, he was only asked to work for the night there. It is middle of harvesting for the second crop now.
Shocked residents said yesterday said that the explosion and its tragedy were not the first. Several years ago, a number of persons were also killed when a boiler exploded.
The family of the operator said that officials of the mills have been in contact with them, with the wife of the owner making arrangements to fly into the country from overseas.
Yesterday, dazed workers were seen cleaning up with the gaping hole in the wall and blackened paddy bags which were stark evidence of the explosion.
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