Cell phones & gas don't mix

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:18

    WARWICK-Kevin Baldwin is lucky to be alive. He learned that an everyday chore can have devastating consequences. The Warwick man had just come from getting gasoline at a local station for his home generator. It was Friday, Dec. 3, and he had lost his power the day before. With 9-year-old triplets whose medical needs require electric power, the generator at his new house on Horse Hill Lane near the Church of the Nazarene is a necessity. As he drove up his driveway, his cell phone was charging in the 2002 Toyota 4Runner's power outlet. He shut off the truck, was going to carry the gas into the garage, and then take his daughter, Dorothy, to the movies. He had promised her they would go to the Galleria to see a movie after he got home. He wanted to move the truck a little closer to the garage so he started up the truck again. When he did, his cell phone came on, still attached to its charger in the power outlet. What Baldwin didn't realize was that the truck, with its windows closed, was filled with gas fumes. "There was a cloud of blue light in the car," Baldwin said, caused by the fumes. He tried to open the door, but it was locked. He put the car in park and when he opened the door, the inside of the truck exploded. "When the oxygen came in, the spark from the cell phone just ignited the fumes," Baldwin said. "I am lucky to be alive. I have lung damage. When they took me to the hospital, I had half the capacity in my lungs that I'm supposed to have. It was pretty traumatic." The Warwick Fire Department responded and put the fire out, but not before the truck was destroyed. That doesn't concern Baldwin, especially when he considers that his kids could have been in the car with him. "I see people filling up and talking on their cell phones with their little babies in car seats all the time," he said. "I just want people to be aware this is not safe." Cell phone sparks and gas station fires have been in the news for over five years, causing many companies to post signs banning cell phone use while pumping gas. Many didn't take the information seriously, especially since it was circulated on the Internet, a place where many hoaxes run wild. But in April 1999, messages circulated warning drivers to turn off their cell phones while pumping gas or risk being blown up in a gas vapor explosion. Many cell phone manufacturers, including Nokia and Motorola, have included warnings in their handbooks against using mobile phones in gas stations. Apparently, electronic devices in gas stations are protected with explosive containment devices while cell phones are not. In May, a 21-year-old SUNY New Paltz students received minor burns when his cell phone rang while he was pumping gas at a Mobil station near the New York State Thruway. Baldwin, like the SUNY student, was surprised at what happened. He had never heard of such a thing happening. "It was the freakiest thing I ever saw," he said. But, according to reports, it doesn't take much to spark gasoline vapors. It is better to be safe than sorry — turn off your cell phone when you pull into a gas station. It just might save your life.