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Ravenshoe cafe crash was ‘not intentional’

ABC

ABC

The driver of the ute which caused an explosion at a far north Queensland cafe, injuring 20 people, could have had a heart attack or stroke, his son says.

Brian Scutt is in a critical condition and induced coma in Cairns Hospital, with a broken spine and burns to his face, back and body.

The 60-year-old Ravenshoe local’s car ploughed into gas bottles at the rear of the Serve You Right Cafe in the town during lunch on Tuesday.

Cafe explosion after car crash

Passerby, Dick Jensen, pulled Mr Scutt unconscious from his car.

Inside, diners ran for their lives, however, few managed to escape the explosion which blew off the cafe’s front glass panels.

The incident has been described by medical experts as the largest aeromedical movement of burns patients in Queensland in memory.

Police are still piecing together what led to the crash, with some witnesses saying Mr Scutt’s car clipped a tree, or almost collided with another car.

ABC

Ravenshoe community gather to pray for victims of the cafe blast. Photo: ABC

His son James Scutt said a heart attack or a stroke may have caused his dad to lose control of his car.

“It is clearly and accident,” Mr Scutt said.

“It was not intentional.

“He’s previously had a kidney transplant – so I don’t know if that played a part in this.”

Brian had worked in cattle stations on the Atherton Tablelands and was well known throughout Ravenshoe, which has a population of less than 1,000.

“His face is completely covered in bandages, his ears, hands,” Mr Scutt said.

“It’s the hardest thing seeing him in that state.

“I was just in tears, it was too hard to see.

“There are other people who have come off a little bit worse than dad.”

Injured firefighter flown to Brisbane

A firefighter who was injured with 20 others has been transferred from Townsville Hospital to Brisbane to receive specialist burns treatment.

Witnesses said the ute was out of control before the crash and the driver appeared to make no attempts to brake.

They said the wheels of the ute were still spinning after it was wedged into the side of the cafe.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Acting Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the 56-year-old firefighter transferred to Brisbane had received burns to 50 per cent of his body.

“Last night he was in an induced coma and brought out of that this morning to see how he was travelling and responding but once again is in an induced coma for his travel to Brisbane,” she said on Wednesday.

ABC

A rescue helicopter carrying a patient from the explosion at the Serves You Right Cafe prepares to land near Cairns Hospital. Photo: ABC

Queensland Police Acting Superintendent Rolf Straatemeier said police have turned their attention to the cause of the incident.

“Our scientific officers are here today and are going to try and piece together what’s happened,” he said.

“We just don’t know what happened. We know he left the road … he’s clipped a couple of trees and then driven straight into the gas bottles. It’s really supposition what’s happened.”

Overnight, a 37-year-old woman who suffered burns to 80 per cent of her body, was taken to the burns unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital.

She is the daughter of the cafe’s owners, who are currently overseas on holiday, family friend Jane Rodwell told ABC News.

“The guy and his wife who own the cafe are lovely people, having a well-earned rest in Europe, they’ve only just started their wonderful lifetime holiday,” she said.

“I guess they’ll be coming back cause it’s their daughter who’s been running the cafe and hurt.”

The remaining patients were taken to Cairns, Atherton and Innisfail hospitals, most of them in stable conditions.

Among the injured were a number of elderly people who were members of a senior social club, as well as two firefighters who travelled to the town to deliver a safety course to the club earlier in the day.

United Firefighters Union state secretary John Oliver said one sustained burns to half of his body – the other to 20 per cent.

“They were up there doing some work on the day and my heart goes out to the locals as well and the auxiliary firefighters that will also be impacted by this,” he said.

“Firefighters do get injured responding to incidents and doing their best to save people but [with] this one they were caught unawares.”

‘The community were fantastic’

CareFlight paramedic Joanne Selby, who is from Cairns, said the scene of the explosion was confronting and chaotic.

“The community were fantastic. There were a lot of bystanders helping out in any way they could,” she said.

“They were dousing patients with water to keep them cool initially, and then trying to keep the patients warm once we got to the stage where we had to warm them all up, comforting all the patients, keeping them sheltered. It was a bit drizzly and cold up there.”

ABC

The more seriously injured patients from the Ravenshoe explosion were flown to hospital on Tuesday. Photo: ABC

On Wednesday morning, Tablelands Mayor Rosa Lee Long urged anyone with mental or physical health concerns to seek help.

“There’ll be some people who’ll be very resilient and others who’ll be less resilient and so the ones who are less resilient are the ones we need to capture,” she said.

“There are some people who have obvious injuries but with the inhalation of the smoke and the gas maybe injuries that might come out later rather than immediately.”

Cr Long said the small town was still in shock.

“Ravenshoe, being a small community, everybody knows everybody and even the fellow driving the vehicle that crashed into the gas bottle was a local fellow as well,” she said.

“There will be people available to assist with mental health issues in the days and weeks that come.”

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