EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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October 8, 2012

Solvent sparked blast that burned boy

LAWRENCE —The father and son seriously burned at a Prospect Hill home Saturday were trying to remove carpet glue from a tile floor with a flammable solvent when a “flash fire explosion” occurred, fire Chief Jack Bergeron said.

Luis Lopez, 59, and his son, Frank Anthony Lopez, 13, were working together in the basement of 71 Woodland St. at 2:20 p.m. when the explosion occurred, Bergeron said.

Father and son were both airlifted by medical helicopters to Boston hospitals. Frank Lopez is being treated at Shriner’s Hospital, a pediatric burn center, while his dad is being cared for at nearby Massachusetts General Hospital. Conditions were not available for father or son at either hospital last night.

The explosion occurred after an industrial strength solvent that is “extremely flammable” was being applied to adhesive left behind when a carpet was removed from the tile floor in the basement, Bergeron said.

The chief said numerous ignition sources can be found in a basement including a hot water heater, furnace boiler or “even a light bulb.”

The boy was burned over 60 percent of his body while his father’s injuries were unclear. While he didn’t know details of the father and son’s injuries, Bergeron said explosions of this type can cause both external and internal burns. The pain of such burns is often not felt immediately but becomes progressively more intense in the hours afterward, he said.

Bergeron was optimistic both father and son would recover. However, he added the accident provides a sad reminder of the danger of using any type of flammable liquid. “Make sure ignition sources are shut off,” Bergeron said.

Luis Lopez, whose address was not available last night, is not facing any charges, the chief said.

“As far as we are concerned, this was accidental in nature,” Bergeron said.

Capt. Robert Wilson, a fire department investigator, and troopers assigned to the fire marshal’s office investigated.

The home where the explosion occurred belongs to Jacqueline Yancey and is currently valued at $163,900, according to city assessing records available online.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.

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