Conn. Gas Station Blast Probe Continues; Minister Severely Burned

Dec. 27, 2013
Witnesses said they smelled a really strong odor of gasoline just prior to the incident.

Dec. 27--DANBURY -- Officials are still investigating the cause of a Dec. 20 explosion at Wheels/Friendly Citgo gas station, which severely burned a local man, but a witness who stopped by the station just before the fireball said there was a heavy smell of gasoline in the air.

Assistant Deputy Fire Marshal Mark Perry said Thursday that until the victim, the Rev. David Wentroble, can be interviewed, the investigation will not be closed and no cause for the explosion will be released.

Wentroble, 60, of Danbury, remained in critical condition Thursday in the burn unit of Bridgeport Hospital, according to hospital spokesman John Cappiello.

A chaplain at Nyack Hospital, in Nyack, N.Y., Wentroble suffered burns over most of his body as the result of the blast that occurred at the gas station on Tamarack Avenue, police said.

Theresa Mohan and her husband, Patrick, had stopped at the station minutes before the 6 a.m. accident. They own Candlewood Bait & Tackle shop, just yards from the station, and stop for gas in the morning on their way to work, she said.

"I was napping in the back seat of the car, and the smell of gas when we pulled to the pumps was so strong it woke me up," Theresa Mohan said.

That was around 6:05 a.m., she said. The couple then drove to the parking lot behind their tackle shop and her husband walked in the back door, through the small shop and opened the front door.

"Patrick saw a man on the ground by the pumps with another man over him, beating him to put out flames," Mohan said. "We never heard an explosion, though. And we were at the pumps to the far north of the station (Nos. 15 and 16) when we stopped for gas, and the man on the ground was at the farther pumps (Nos. 1 and 2). It doesn't make sense that the gas smell could have been carried that far."

Eyewitnesses said Wentroble was pumping gas when there was an explosion. Flames forced him to the ground as station employees worked to extinguish the blaze.

An attempt to reach the gas station's owner, Richard Whiel of Consumer Petroleum in Trumbull, was unsuccessful.

A spokesperson for Consumer Petroleum said the company had no comment about the incident at this time. The Wheels/Friendly gas station remains open for business.

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Copyright 2013 - The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.

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