Propane tank leak determined as cause of San Marcos food truck explosion

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SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Fire investigators have determined that a propane gas leak caused the series of explosions in San Marcos Thursday that destroyed multiple food trucks. Officials say no one was injured in the explosions.

According to investigators, the leak started at the Rondooley’s food truck. An unknown source sparked the fuel, causing the first explosion. The second was caused by another nearby propane tank becoming overheated.

San Marcos Fire Chief Les Stephens told KXAN they got a call at around 6:03 a.m. Thursday morning. The second explosion came around 6:20 a.m.

It happened at a new food trailer park on Chesnut street near Texas State University.

Stephens said a total of four food trucks were damaged or destroyed and seven buildings were impacted.

Food truck owners devastated

“My anxiety was at an all time high,” said Umberto Ortiz who owns the El Morenito truck.

“One day you’re working there, and the next day, you’re just, it’s gone,” he continued. “You don’t think it’ll ever happen to you. It’s just unbelievable.”

Ortiz’s truck was right next to the Rondooley’s. Our crews also saw significant damage to Tikiz Shaved Ice.

Ortiz told KXAN just two weeks ago, he left his full-time job to dedicate all of his time and energy into his trailer. Cooking brings him peace and joy, he said.

“As I was growing up, I wasn’t very confident in cooking. It wasn’t until I started cooking for other people that it instilled confidence. They were like you should open up your restaurant. You should do this,” Ortiz explained.

He added, “What I did find out through cooking is that it settled my anxiety, my depression.”

Ortiz said he now wonders if the city should check for propane leaks often.

When asked about propane tank requirements, city officials told KXAN, ” There is no limit to size or quantity of propane tanks allowed. The main requirement is that all the tanks be properly secured in an upright position.”

He also wondered if there’s a leak detection system that can alert fire departments when the trucks are closed.

“Maybe that’s something they should look into, putting in these food trailers,” Ortiz said. “Something that sets out an alarm that’s maybe tied to the fire department, if that capability is available.”

Witnesses share what they saw

KXAN talked to one Texas State senior, Michael Cugini who said he thought the explosion was just thunder. “I thought it was unusual that thunder sounded that loud, I kind of chalked it up to that but I definitely woke up, heart was pounding it was that loud, I mean it was one of the loudest things I’d heard,” said Cugini.

Another Texas State student, Skylar Jaramillo, said she and her roommates thought the explosion was the sound of their apartment building collapsing.

“We were all asleep when we heard this like giant crash and honestly a lot of us thought it was the structural integrity of the building. We were freaking out like, ‘oh my god the building is falling,’ and then we looked outside and see this huge fireball.”

“It was really scary at first because we don’t know what’s happening it’s the middle of the night a bunch of stuff fell off our walls and we’re freaking out and then we see this giant explosion and reality just kind of sets in that this is somebody’s livelihood and it’s just kind of heart-wrenching,” said Jaramillo.

Residents were told to avoid windows and remain indoors before the order was lifted at 7:23 a.m.

A spokesperson with Texas State University said the explosions posed no threat to the school and that the campus operated normally.

Video courtesy twitter user @HelesBestGirl

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