American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fuel Bottle Explosion in Tent—Burns, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

FUEL BOTTLE EXPLOSION IN TENT-BURNS

Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

On June 16, Steve Whitney (34) and Ben Krasnow (29), Alpine Ascents International Guides, were cooking dinner for their clients at basecamp when one of the two MSR Whisperlite stoves experienced an O-ring failure, causing the fuel bottle to explode. One of the guides bent down and attempted to slap the stove away from them when it exploded, causing a fireball estimated to be a minimum of five feet in diameter.

The two received various second-degree burns to their hands and faces. They were treated by cooling using gauze soaked with normal (I.V) saline solution, then gel burn pads. There was concern that inhalation injuries may have occurred as well. Weather conditions prevented the helicopter from flying. They were evacuated the next day by fixed wing aircraft, having been carefully monitored all night.

Analysis

The guides stated they had had some previous problems with the same pump leaking, so had taken precautions to ensure it was on tight. It can be hypothesized that the two stoves were too close together, causing one pump to overheat and fail.

The group was very fortunate to have only two people injured and to have the accident occur at basecamp where medical treatment could be administered under relatively controlled conditions, and where other guides could take over the supervision of the clients. Enough praise cannot be given to the other mountaineering guides for their unhesitating response both in medical treatment and supervision, which freed this ranger to supervise the medical care and coordinate evacuation plans. (Source: Edited from a report by John Loomis, Ranger)

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