February 15, 2017
PHOTOS BY SCOTT EISEN
Public safety officials respond to fatal explosion at 785 Revere Beach Parkway in Revere that killed a 50-year-old man.
By THOR JOURGENSEN and THOMAS GRILLO
REVERE — A heating expert says the boiler explosion early Wednesday that killed a 50-year-old man could have been avoided if simple steps had been taken.
“We are constantly preaching to customers and our technicians not to ignore boiler maintenance,” said Jeff Waldman, owner of Waldman Plumbing & Heating in Lynn, a four-generation family-owned business.
Reyes Bertrand died in the blast in the predawn hours at 785 Revere Beach Parkway. Revere Fire Chief Christopher Bright said the explosion severely damaged the basement of the Ranch-style home. Bright said the home’s other 10 residents were unharmed. But a man who identified himself as the victim’s cousin said he suffered injuries to his fingers.
Fernando Osorio said he was sleeping in the basement when the explosion threw him against a wall. He fled the house only to discover the victim was still inside. The blast’s force blew out basement windows and coated snow in front of the house with soot. Bright said the lower level was blown apart by the explosion’s force.
“Luckily, there weren’t more fatalities,” Bright said.
Customers often ask Waldman how often they should have their oil or gas burners inspected and tested. The safe answer is once a year, he said.
“The key is having a technician who is familiar with your heating system,” he said. “There are lots of safeties built into these units and if they are not checked regularly things like this can happen.”
For example, Waldman said every hot water system has a pressure release valve. If it’s not maintained, the homeowner could be in danger.
“If that pressure release valve malfunctions, you are creating a bomb in the basement that can blow right through the roof,” he said. “We show a video to our guys on what happens if there’s a plugged relief valve. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.”
The other thing to keep in mind, he said, is an experienced tech with the right equipment will analyze the heating unit’s combustion for safety and efficiency.
“We test the flue gasses to make sure a burner is firing at the proper rate,” Waldman said. “Just because a boiler is working doesn’t mean it’s working safely. Many times homeowners wait until the heat goes out, but sometimes that’s too late.”
The first line of defense is an annual tune up, whether you have a gas or oil burner, he said.
If you fail to maintain the system, be on the lookout for telltale signs of trouble. Listen to your heating unit and if there’s a percolating sound or banging, that’s a sign of trouble, Waldman said. If there’s rust on the vent pipe connected to the chimney or white drip marks, that’s also time to call for service.
When the hot water in your home is hotter than usual, that means something is not working right, he said.
David Castro of Chelsea, who said he’s a friend of the home’s residents, had previously checked the boiler for problems at the homeowner’s request. He described the victim as a Honduran native who was living with his family in Everett before moving two years ago to Revere Beach Parkway.
“This is a really bad tragedy,” Castro said.
Neighbor Hugo Gonzalez formerly lived at 785 Revere Beach Parkway and said the home was one of several on a stretch of the Parkway damaged by the tornado that hit Revere three years ago. He said the victim had problems getting the boiler to work.
“It worries me. It could have been my family,” Gonzalez said.
Thor Jourgensen can be reached at email@example.com. Thomas Grillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.