Sunrise Propane Explosion

On August 10, 2008 at 3:50 am an alarm was received at the City of Toronto Fire Department. They responded to one of the worst propane explosions and fires in Canadian history.

A bulk tanker truck full of propane was at a distribution centre and in the process of filling from that tanker to another truck on the site, through a hose connected to each truck, a process known as cross filling in the propane industry.

There was a release of propane during this operation, and the cloud of vapour ignited. The fire heated up the tank trucks and caused boiling liquid expanding vapour explosions (BLEVES) of both tankers.

Parts of the trucks flew through the air and damaged surrounding buildings. Buildings at the site were blown apart by the explosion, distributing asbestos debris from the buildings over the neighbourhood. One employee was killed and one fireman died at the scene during the response. A huge fireball lit up the night sky as the large tanker BLEVED (boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion). Many people recorded the incident on video phones, and they were quickly posted to the internet.

Our firm was retained by the liability insurer for the plant operator, Sunrise Propane to investigate the cause of the incident. There were many other parties involved in the investigation. Government investigators from the Ontario Fire Marshal (OFM), Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Environment responded and the site was under their control for months, as the investigation was conducted and evidence collected and removed.

When they released the site, the many other insurance interests attended the site. Much of the evidence had been moved and removed so follow up investigations were required at the evidence storage facility and eventually at laboratories where evidence testing was completed. Some testing had to be done in Texas at a specially equipped lab.

In addition to the cause investigation, our firm was retained by multiple home insurers to assess surrounding buildings for explosion damage. Our structural engineers were busy in the neighbourhood for weeks following the explosion. The OFM determined the probable cause of the propane release was a hose rupture.The owners faced charges in court from the Ministry of Labour and were convicted of some health and safety offences.

The TSSA amended their regulations pertaining to propane distribution centres like this one, following this incident.

Our team of experts is well trained and equipped to work in disaster zones such as this one. The investigations are long, technical and team-oriented, with many interested parties.