ROCKLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- An explosion at a Rockland garage sent three people to the hospital, including one man that had to be airlifted due to his injuries, according to a Rockland fire official.
The blast brought firefighters to 9 Wharf Street just before 10 p.m. Thursday.
Two of the victims, a male and a female, were taken to Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport by ambulance. The third victim, a male, was first transported to PenBay initially, but later flown by LifeFlight to another hospital for specialty treatment.
Rockland Fire Chief Chris Whytock said, "There was a 55-gallon drum that had acetone at one point. They stated they thought the drum was empty and they thought it had been vented enough and that there were no fumes left. But we’re thinking the grinding work they were doing, something got in, or some spark or ember got into the vapors and caused the explosion".
Joseph Dinapoli, the tenant of the building, said the group was using a grinder on a personal vehicle when the 'flash fire' occurred.
Whytock said the situation got worse when instead of immediately evacuating and calling for help, the people tried to douse the flames themselves using a garden hose and fire extinguisher. He said the safer course of action would be to leave at once and only try to fight the fire if the exit is blocked.
Dinapoli disagrees with that assessment. Dinapoli stated he immediately evacuated the building and called 911 some 90 seconds after the fire erupted.
Dinapoli said he went back into douse the flames. "I went back in with 5-gallon buckets of water to extinguish cardboard and other small materials.'
The building at 9 Wharf Street had minor exterior damage.
Dinapoli said the man is still in the hospital, 'but he's doing very well.'
According to Whytock, 30 area firefighters helped at the scene.
NEWS CENTER updated this story Sunday, October 1 after speaking with Joseph Dinapoli. Mr. Dinapoli made clear this was a play/personal space and has nothing to do with his place of business.