let this be a lesson to you all

Homemade pressure chamber blows two men to bits:

A retired surgeon and his brother died in a freak accident when a homemade oxygen chamber exploded in the backyard of a Polokwane house - blasting the remains of one of them more than 10m away. The blast ripped open the steel wall of the cylinder, which was between 10cm and 15cm thick, and shattered neighbours' windows.

Dr Paul Eloff, 76, was undergoing treatment for poor blood circulation inside the pressurised chamber when it exploded on Friday afternoon. Dr Eloff's remains were found about 10m away from the cylinder. Its hatch lay about 15m away.

"The remains were taken away in plastic bags. It was horrific. It was like scraping leaves together in your garden and putting them in plastic bags."

Otto said family members told police the hyperbaric chamber had been with them "for years and that they regularly used it for treatments".

Hyperbaric treatment, once used primarily to relieve divers of a dangerous condition called decompression sickness or "the bends", is now used to treat a range of ailments. These include carbon monoxide poisoning, gas gangrene, problem wounds, anaemia, soft tissue infections and bone infections. Hyperbaric therapy is also sometimes used to treat burns.

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24 Responses:

  1. brutsid says:

    "The remains were taken away in plastic bags. It was horrific. It was like scraping leaves together in your garden and putting them in plastic bags."


  2. violentbloom says:

    I'm a little unclear why that was a "freak" accident and not just a product of poor planning....

  3. cmdrmoocow says:

    I hate to say it, but at 76 years old, at least he went out with a bang.

  4. brianenigma says:

    Every time I use my pressure cooker, I have fears like this.

  5. suppafly says:

    i had no idea that much pressure was in one of those..

    • lars_larsen says:

      I want to know if it was just an air-pressure explosion, or if the pure O2 actually caused a combustion explosion.

      • Maybe he really felt like a cigarette?

        • lars_larsen says:

          I saw a news article recently about a guy who was using butane as a solvent to extract THC from marijuana.

          He did it in his bathroom, and then when he was done, in an enclosed room full of butane, he light up a joint.

          Darwinism in action right there.

      • wrin says:

        Probably a combination of both -- remember an increase in temperature (combustion) causes an increase in pressure, and vice versa?

        Good ol' Gay-Lussac's law.

        • lars_larsen says:

          Yes, but if it was pure oxygen, then the only fuel would be the person's body itself!!! :)

          But on the other hand, the kinds of pressures you could reach with a vacuum pump wouldnt be high enough to do this much damage.

          So I'm really torn between the two, I have no idea what it was.

          • wrin says:

            Yes, and at that much oxygen, human skin will support combustion just as readily as gasoline.

            If the walls were 15 cm thick and they had access to oxygen cylinders, I can't help but think that they could pressure something up to 1.5-2 ATA of oxygen. I mean, the cylinders come in 50 PSI, and hyperbaric air is poisonous. Hyperbaric nitrogen will totally wreck you in the brain -- ask deep-sea divers about nitrogen narcosis.

            • lars_larsen says:

              Yeah, the acceptable concentration for oxygen is pretty low. I'm sure they only have a few PSI in there. I'm thinking it was some kind of explosion.

              You're right, not only would human flesh be as combustable as gasoline, it should actually be explosive at higher concentrations of O2.

  6. willco says:

    Reports disagree on the victim's eye color, yet all concur that they were "blew".

  7. cmdrmoocow says:

    Just exactly how long did they have this thing in use before it finally broke?

    One would think regular maintanance is in order for such a thing....

  8. wrin says:

    The thing about hyperbaric treatment?

    At 2ATA of 100% oxygen, human skin supports combustion.

    Who wants to bet that thing wasn't grounded to a hospital-grade grounding outlet? All it takes is some synthetic clothing or a little metal... one little spark will do it.

    • On a certain mailing list where this was discussed, someone recently mentioned the story of a young child undergoing lengthy and boring treatment in one such hyperbaric chamber. One kind adult, aware of how the hours drag on when you're a young child, gave the tyke a toy; an old-fashioned metal one that shot sparks. Predictably, the child went whoompf, and there was no way anyone could depressurise the chamber fast enough to do anything to help.

      • wrin says:

        The story happened in Japan. I have heard the story, actually it was in the Hyperbarics textbook I studied.

        Nobody has ever, ever survived a monoplace fire. Ever.