Update: Man burned in propane explosion dies from injuries

Posted at 11:49 PM, Aug 29, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-30 20:33:48-04

UPDATE: Fire officials say 36-year-old Matthew S. Olive died at Sentara’s Norfolk General Burn Trauma Unit last night. Fire Investigators believe a cigarette may have ignited the propane. 

Fire Investigators and the Virginia Beach Police Homicide Unit are continuing to investigate this case.  If anyone has any additional information, please contact Fire Investigator Robert Putz at 757-385-4228.

Brian Schlegel was in his backyard when he heard a boom after a propane tank exploded in his neighbor's car.

"He said he lit a cigarette then the explosion happened," Schlegel said.

They screamed at him to get on the ground and roll around.

"Get on the ground, get on the ground," Schlegel said.

He worried that the man's two young sons were in the backseat of the van, fortunately they weren't.

Schlegel and his roommate rushed to take action to save their neighbor, so they grabbed fire extinguishers.

Then they got a garden hose and started spraying him.

"He was completely in flames when we first got out then from that point, he was on the ground here and most of him, three-fourths of it was out once he was rolling around."

But as the man was rolling around, the flames from the van continued to grow.

"While we're out here, I don't know if it's the gas tank or could have been the tires, but it was like another explosion, [it] just kept burning and it was like moving toward the front," Schlegel said.

They had already called 911 and while they waited, medics told them how to help the man.

"So we're grabbing the rain hose and wetting the towels down and everything. I put a towel down [and] I explain to him, 'Hey, I'm going to put this on your head,'" Schlegel said.

What amazes Schlegel is not only that his neighbor survived, but that he was able to talk through the ordeal.

"He kind of just stood there like a statue because I think everything started tightening up on him real bad. He kept saying, 'I'm in pain, I'm in pain,'" Schlegel said.

Schlegel says it was only eight minutes until an ambulance arrived, but it felt like much longer.