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Vernon  

Firefighter's death an accident

The death of well-loved 25-year-old volunteer firefighter, Daniel Joseph Botkin, has been ruled accidental.

Botkin died while working with the Enderby Fire Department on a fire at a log-home construction site in December, 2011. 

The fire department was called to the fire at 3:51 a.m. on Dec. 29.  When crews arrived the Deputy Fire Chief assessed the scene looking for dangers to his crew. At the time the owner's of the property informed the fire department the shipping container housed chainsaws and a pressure washer, with fuel stored in a separate fuel locker.

What they didn't know was that the shipping container also contained one-litre of methyl hydrate and whatever fuel was left in the chainsaws.

About an hour after arrival, fire crews had a good hold on the fire and by 4:50 a.m. the fire was considered contained. Firefighters, including Botkin, were asked to start mop-up.

At that time Botkin moved away from the engulfed structure and was working near the shipping container with a hose.

Minutes later at approximately 5:12 a.m., the shipping container exploded just three to five metres from where Botkin stood.

At 5:15 a.m. fellow emergency officials including paramedics rushed to the scene to find Botkin lying lifeless on the ground.

At the time of the incident a thorough investigation was completed by the BC Coroner, RCMP Major Crimes Unit, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, WorkSafeBC and the BC Safety Authority.

Foul play was ruled out.

It was determined the explosion occurred when the heat from the fire melted the chainsaw and the methyl hydrate container, allowing the contents to escape, mix and detonate.

The coroner report goes on to point out that the shipping container didn’t have large enough vents to handle the fumes from the chemical reaction, but that the container's vents were standard on that product. The small vents would have, “allowed the pressure to build to the point that it exceeded the rupture strength of the container.”

The BC Coroner released their findings and determined that Botkin was struck by a metal door in the explosion, killing him instantly. They say the explosion was so powerful the container's 113 kg doors were dislodged and propelled out with tremendous force.

The door that hit Botkin continued through the air and struck a crane parked approximately 43-metres away. The second door landed nearly 60-metres from the container.

“I find that Daniel Botkin died of multiple blunt force trauma to the head and left chest, resulting in severe brain injury and aortic laceration due to the explosion of the shipping container during the fire,” wrote Coroner Margaret Janzen in her report. “I classify this death as accidental.”

At the time of Botkin's death, the community of Enderby and Emergency personnel mourned across the country. Hundreds arrived from all over to line the streets of the small town and pay respects to their fallen firefighter

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