A propane tank in the back of a pick-up truck exploded Saturday afternoon in a McDonald's drive-through near the Coachella music festival, injuring the truck driver, destroying the truck, burning part of the restaurant and damaging another car 75 feet away that was hit by another propane tank from the same truck.
The explosion was caused by static electricity when the driver of the Chevrolet pick-up touched the valve of a propane tank because a bystander told him it was leaking, said Justin McGough, battalion chief with Riverside County Fire Department. The propane in the tank had expanded because of temperatures over 100 degrees, causing it to BLEVE - boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion - McGough said.
The family had picked up two propane tanks earlier that day - one five gallons and the other 50 gallons. The smaller tank, which the driver checked, exploded and launched the second tank 75 feet, where it hit another vehicle, according to McGough.
"An on-duty Indio police lieutenant was on scene and managed to move 10 to 15 onlookers within seconds of it BLEVE-ing, so kudos to that lieutenant," McGough said.
Some of those onlookers drove the injured man to John M. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, McGough said.
The McDonald's is at the corner of Avenue 48 and Jackson Street in Coachella, about 2.5 miles from the entrance to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.