One dead, 5 missing and presumed killed after explosion on Merivale Road

One person is dead and five others remain missing after an explosion at a building in southern Ottawa Thursday.

The explosion and major fire at Eastway Tank on Merivale Road sent three people to hospital, two of them in critical condition. One of those people has since died, police reported Friday morning.

Police say four men and a woman are missing. It is believed they were in the building when the explosion happened.

Police have not released their identities, but say their families have been notified.

“It is not believed that any more survivors will be found,” says Insp. Frank D’Aoust told reporters that on Friday.

Relatives have publicly identified one of the victims of the tragedy: Rick Bastien of Luskville, Que.

“As I sit here and think about all the things he’s said to me, all the things we’ve done, I’m so sorry there wasn’t more,” Josh Bastien said in a Facebook post. Josh Bastien is the son of Rick Bastien.

“Right now I’m overwhelmed with emotions, emotions I’ve never felt before.”

Bastien added to the statement Friday afternoon, saying: “My father was one of a kind…the hardest working man I have ever known.”

Rick Bastien’s Facebook page states that he was a welder/manufacturer/mechanic at Eastway Tank.

Repairs are underway at the badly damaged site, he said, along with an investigation into the cause of the explosion and fire.

Eastway Tank Pump & Meter Ltd. is a custom tank truck manufacturer for both the North American and International markets.

Neil Greene, the owner and president of the family business, said he is “devastated”.

“It is with great sadness that we learned that one of our colleagues has died as a result of the tragic explosion, with five missing and one in hospital. My heart goes out to their families, loved ones and all our employees who are recovering from this deep loss,” he said in a statement on Friday.

“We remain in close contact with investigators and we will work with authorities on all subsequent investigations. We want to get to the bottom of what happened.

“I am absolutely devastated. To the families of our lost colleague and to all of our associates, please know that Eastway Tank will be there for you for the coming weeks and months without fail. My deepest condolences to all of you.”

The company was founded in 1968. Their product lines include petroleum trucks and trailers, water trucks, military tank trucks and fire trucks, according to the company’s LinkedIn page.

The tankers they produce and maintain are used for the transport of gas, diesel, propane and water.

On Thursday evening, police asked all workers and families to attend a “reunification center” at Woodvale Pentecostal Church on Greenbank Road. Outside, relatives could be seen comforting each other.

Emergency services will remain on site Friday. The arson unit of the Ottawa Police Department, the Department of Labor, the Ontario Fire Department and the coroner are all investigating.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tweeted his “deepest condolences” to the family of the deceased worker and asked residents to pray for the families of the five missing workers.

“No words can take away the stress and devastation as these people wait for news about their family and friends,” Watson tweeted. “My sincere thanks to our first responders for their tremendous efforts to save lives and contain the fire under very difficult circumstances.”

‘Thought it was an earthquake’

At around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, flames and black smoke could be seen from the commercial building on Merivale Road.

Ottawa Fire Department officials said 911 callers reported hearing an explosion before seeing 15-foot-tall flames shoot through the roof of a building.

count. Tim Tierney said he was visiting a facility in the city of Ottawa several feet away from the building when the fire started.

“At first I thought it was an earthquake. The ground was shaking and then suddenly, seconds later, I suddenly heard the bang,” Tierney told Newstalk 580 CFRAs Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

Three people who were in the building at the time were taken to hospital. One has since been released from hospital and the other is in serious but stable condition, police said Friday. A firefighter was also treated for minor injuries.

The fire brigade brought in heavy equipment on Thursday evening to extinguish the fire. Ottawa Fire Chief Paul Hutt said there was no danger to residents in the area.

“As we suppress the fire, there is water runoff that occurs as a result of us throwing water on the fire. I want to assure residents that there are no worries — we have our HAZMAT team on site,” Hutt said Thursday.

Ottawa Count. Keith Egli, who represents the area, said the city is thinking of the families, friends and colleagues of the victims.

“We’re coming together as a city, we’re a strong city and a supportive city, so hopefully all those people know what we think about them, we’re praying for them as they go through this,” he said.

‘I hear a loud bang’

Witnesses reported hearing a loud “pop” before the fire broke out.

“I was serving a customer just finished with her and I hear a loud bang. Next thing I know there’s a very large cloud of black smoke,” said Jesse Headland, who works near the Francis Gas Bar.

“It gets ‘yay-high’ and eventually I do see some flames hiding behind the truck. Probably the biggest I’ve seen in my nine years working here.”

Amanda Fung owns the Country Place Chinese Restaurant near the site of the fire.

“I’m eating my lunch and I smell smoke. When I went out to look out the window, I saw a lot of big flames.”

Sean McKenny, the chairman of the Ottawa and District Labor Council, said his focus is on the workers and their families for now.

“Something went wrong here, and that’s a question that I know will come up tomorrow and the day after,” he said. consequence of that terrible tragedy.”

– with files from Tyler Fleming, Katie Griffin, Leah Larocque and Jackie Perez, CTV News Ottawa

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