Shortly after 9:00 a.m. on Friday, October 24th, 1997, a butane truck, owned by Mr. Leoli Varela's of Leoli's butane service, which was parked on the municipal pier caught on fire.
Crowds gathered in Central Park to see the flaming truck as the fire fighters tried to extinguish the flames with sea water. In about 10 minutes the flames were put out. Mr. Varela said that he was at home when the truck caught on fire. He explained that the truck's engine had caught on fire and that the body was made of fiber glass, that's why it burned so quickly and was completely destroyed. The tank on back of the truck was not destroyed, only blackened by the thick smoke caused by the fire.
"The truck was filled with 1800 hundred gallons of butane and had the tank caught on fire," Mr. Varela explained, "the explosion would have been great. It would have blown up everything from the pier to Martha's Store." (Including the many Central Park spectators) The tank was checked for leaks but none were found.
According to a police report received on Monday, October 29th, Luis Gillette, driver of the truck, reported that the tank was being filled from a barge when the hose leading from the barge to the tank came undone, fell near the truck's exhaust pipe and ignited.
Mr. Varela estimates that he lost $55,000.00. Leoli's butane service operates with two delivery trucks, the one that burned was mostly used for hotel deliveries.
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