School gas explosion victim was ‘good bloke’ as community rallies around family

Ian Bushnell 3 August 2018

Flowers left at St Clare of Assisi Primary School pay tribute to the father who died in yesterday’s explosion. Photo: George Tsotsos.

The father killed by a vehicle explosion at a Tuggeranong school on Thursday afternoon was a down to earth, good bloke who was very involved in his community, according to the principal of St Clare of Assisi Primary School, where floral tributes have been laid today.

Matt Egan-Richards said the 51-year-old man had been at the school to pick up his child from after-school care when the explosion in the car park rocked the 600-strong Catholic school on Heidelberg Street in Conder shortly before 5 pm.

Community rallies around family of man who was tragically killed in car explosion

St Clare of Assisi Primary remains closed after the tragic death of a man in his fifties whose car exploded in a carpark at the school on Thursday afternoon. Police investigations are continuing today, and community members have laid floral tributes at the site of the incident. Principal Matthew Egan-Richards described the man as a down-to-earth good bloke and a very involved member of the school community.

Posted by Breaking247 on Thursday, 2 August 2018

Police said today that the incident was not suspicious, with early investigations suggesting a leaking gas canister may have caused the explosion.

A report will be prepared for the Coroner with assistance from WorkSafe ACT, which is also investigating the incident.

Mr Egan-Richards could not confirm whether the man, who died in Canberra Hospital from his injuries, was outside the vehicle when the explosion happened, saying he wasn’t aware of anyone who actually witnessed the blast.

He said that while the school did not want to identify the man and his family, the victim was certainly well known and liked in the school community.

“He was a down to earth good bloke, with a lovely family, very supportive of the school and very involved in their community,” he said.

St Clare of Assisi Primary School principal Matt Egan-Richards and Catholic Education Office director Ross Fox. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Mr Egan-Richards said he had been in contact with the family and the school community was rallying around them, with counselling and ongoing support offered for the family, staff, other families and students.

“It’s been heartening, the contact that I have had from the Catholic Education Office, from the parents in our community, from the messages I’ve received, but the way our families work together, it’s very heartening. It’s a very close and tight community in the Lanyon Valley and they will pull together and support each other, and we will work together and look at what we need to provide,” he said.

The school was closed today so staff could meet with counsellors and be prepared to offer appropriate support to students and families on Monday.

Mr Egan-Richards praised after-school staff who responded to the explosion and called emergency services. “They did a great job of lockdown. They isolated the children and took care of them,” he said.

Mr Egan-Richards said he was sickened when he was notified of the tragedy, and it was a tremendous shock and heartache for the family.

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