An explosion tore through the crematorium at Hayes Funeral Home in Shawville around 1 p.m. on Thursday, cutting power to part of the town for several hours. A gaping hole was blown through the front corner of the building, located on rue James near the intersection with rue Centre, and bits of debris and insulation were scattered in a wide radius. A fragment of the building’s roof had tangled itself in the nearby electrical wires, causing serious arcing.
There were no reported injuries.
Justin Greene, who lives close by on rue King, witnessed the aftermath of the explosion.
“I heard a loud noise and the power went out, so I came outside,” he said. “The overhead wires were arcing really badly.”
Rosalie Lance was in her apartment on rue Centre, across from the funeral home when the explosion happened.
“I was in the kitchen and I felt [the vibration] and heard and awful bang,” she said. “It really shook me up. I just came out [the front door] and came back in because some of the wires had fallen.”
Shawville Clarendon Fire Chief Lee Laframboise said that the situation he approached was a complex one, due to the danger presented by the live wires and the large amount of propane in tanks located on the side of the building nearest the explosion.
“I [was] responding because of hydro wires, I [saw] the flames coming off the wires while I was driving down the road,” he said. “You can’t just approach stuff like that super quick, you have to know what’s going on.”
He noted that both police and a crew from Hydro Quebec were on scene in minutes. The funeral home’s owner, Greg Hayes, who is also a firefighter, was present and managed to shut off the propane. Reached by phone on Friday morning, Hayes declined to comment said he would be putting out a statement on the situation shortly.
According to a release by the Sûreté du Québec, the explosion was caused by high-pressure machinery that malfunctioned. The report also noted that there was damage to a hydro pole.
The neighbouring streets were closed to traffic for several hours while emergency crews worked to clean up the mess and power was restored shortly after 4 p.m.
With files from Darius Shahheydari.
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