WARNING! Before you scroll down I want to let you know that the pictures below are pretty intense. If you have a weak stomach or if you’re easily grossed out then this is your chance to navigate away from this page and visit a less graphic posting on tune-in-tokyo’s website – try the cherry blossom post.
Now that I’ve warned you about the pictures I’m going to warn you about something else that will hopefully help you, or someone you know, avoid going through the same trauma that my wife, Kaori, and her family went through.
It was Kaori’s last day with her family in Vancouver, Canada before going back to Japan. And like many Japanese celebrations this one involved food… lots of food.
Yakiniku it was – so out came the meat and veggies and we fired up the portable gas stove that we see used in many restaurants and households in Korean and Japanese influenced parts of the world.
Just as we had done hundreds of times before for yakiniku, sukiyaki, shyabu shyabu or nabe parties – we all gathered around and cooked our food on the gas stove which was placed in the center of the table. The marinated meat and tons of little side dishes, Kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), Chapchae (stir fried noodles) and Namul (seasoned spinach), that we bought from the local Korean market were delicious.
After cooking for a while the house started to get a little smokey so we opened the windows. The cool breeze felt great and the smoke quickly cleared.
We were just about to wrap things up. The kids had already eaten and they were playing with their Transformers on the other side of the room. The adults were grilling the last of the meat, drinking a couple beers and chit chatting… and that’s when it happened.
A flash of orange followed by a deafening bang! The butane canister inside to the portable gas stove had exploded. One side of the table… the side where Kaori, her mom and sister were sitting, was engulfed in flames. Before they could react a monstrous fireball of burning gas wrapped around them and tumbled towards the ceiling and out the window. After the initial explosion, the gas from the canister which covered the girls was still burning. They were on fire. We were all in shock… then came the panic and screaming…then crying. The smell of burnt skin and hair was overwhelming.
Kaori’s father Sako made sure the kids were OK… then we got wet towels to cool the burns. We called 911 and, after what seemed like an eternity, the ambulance and fire trucks arrived. The three girls were rushed to the hospital and treated for severe burns.
Below are photographs taken of Kaori shortly after the incident.
As you can see her entire body was charred. I can’t even imagine how much pain she went through both physically and emotionally.
One side of her face was burned but her eyes weren’t – luckily she still has full vision.
This pictures was taken before the skin peeled. She has severe scars on both of her hands and back. Going to the beach and sunbathing is no longer an option. If she goes in the sun for even a short period of time she must wear the strongest protection, SPF-85 sunblock. Her skin is scarred badly and any sunlight will just make the scarring worse.
The flames wrapped around her body and burned her back and shoulders. She was wearing a tank top at the time of the accident so that didn’t help. Can you imagine what it was like to take a shower after being burned like this? Looking at these pictures brings back horrible memories.
Here’s a picture of the actual portable gas stove that exploded. The insurance company determined that the stove was faulty – the gas canister was too close to the flame causing it to become hot and explode. Both the manufacturer of the stove and the Canadian distributor, which were both based in Korea, were nowhere to be found.
Needless to say we will not go to a restaurant that uses any type of portable gas stove. Our family and all of our friends have thrown away their butane stoves and we now use a safe electric grill instead.