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Yes, deadly explosion at gas station killed woman in Nigeria’s Osun state

A Facebook post shared on 18 December 2017 tells of a woman killed in her car in an explosion at a gas-filling station in Osogbo, a city in Osun state in eastern Nigeria.

“This is one of the Directors of State of Osun Ambulance,” it says. “She died yesterday in Osogbo while using her phone where she was filling her gas cylinder.”

A funeral notice identifies the victim as Omobolawa Opeyemi.

The post then warns people not to use their phones at petrol or gas-filling stations, in the kitchen or near generators.

It was recently flagged as possibly false by Facebook’s fact-checking system. But the tragic accident did happen.

As reported in the media

The incident was reported by a number of Nigerian newspapers.

The explosion at Grace Cooking Gas in Osogbo on 9 December 2017 killed two people, including Opeyemi.

Soji Babayemi, the manager of Grace Cooking Gas, told the Tribune how it happened.

“A customer was here to buy gas as usual and she parked her car at the designated car park. She had her car glass rolled up with the air conditioner running. You know, the A/C cannot be running without the engine running, too. She made a call and the next thing from the car was an explosion.”

He added: “Immediately, the car door was opened and the fire spread to other parts of our station. The woman was actually engulfed in fire. She suffered severe burns. She had her driver and another person in the car. The fire started from their car and the two of them were affected.”

Explosion triggered by a phone call?

Nigerian police launched an investigation into the explosion, it was reported.

“We are investigating the incident. We want to be very sure of the true cause of the explosion. We cannot listen to speculations,” Osun state police commissioner Fimihan Adeoye told the Daily Trust at the time.

The newspaper also reported that Sola Fasure, media adviser to Osun governor Rauf Aregbesola, had said “speculation that a phone call caused the explosion was not reliable and cannot be tenable”.

But the investigation eventually concluded that the phone call was the cause.

Folashade Odoro, spokesperson for the Osun state police, told Africa Check that after investigation, the police believed the explosion was caused by Opeyemi’s phone call.

“The outcome of the investigation is that the woman was making a phone call while she was buying cooking gas and that is what caused the fire,” Odoro said.

Explosions caused by cell phones dismissed as myth

There is debate on whether a cell phone can cause an explosion in the presence of flammable gas – such as at a petrol or gas-filling station. It has largely been dismissed as a myth.

Mobile phones have low-voltage batteries that are not ‘potent’ enough to ignite a spark at a gas station,” says the blog Science ABC.

It adds: “A probable cause of fire (related to a cell phone) may be a defective battery in a phone.”

A woman was killed in a deadly explosion at a gas station in Osogbo in December 2017, and a police investigation found a phone call made by the victim to be the cause. We therefore rate the Facebook post as true. - Allwell Okpi


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