AN acrobat is today fighting for his life in hospital after he became engulfed by a “fireball” gas explosion in a caravan.
Jumma Karani, a performer in Gerry Cottle’s Wow! Circus, which is currently performing at The Globe Theatre at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, suffered severe burns to his head, arms and legs after a 19kg propane gas cylinder exploded in his accommodation on Burton Road Industrial Estate, Marton.
The 28-year-old was airlifted to Wynthenshawe Hospital in Manchester, where he was last night said to be in a critical but stable condition in the specialist burns unit.
Mr Karani, a member of the acrobatic group The Kenyan Warriors, was caught in the blast of the explosion just before 11am yesterday.
Witnesses said Mr Karani came running out of his caravan screaming in Kenyan for an ambulance.
Firefighters, police and health and safety officials have now launched an investigation to determine the cause of the explosion.
But one of his colleagues, Gareth Ellis, 23, a clown in the circus, described how Mr Karani had experienced a problem with his gas cooker before the incident happened.
He said: “The explosion was just like a fireball.
“He came out and you could see he was burnt, he could still see and talk though, he was speaking in Kenyan because he was so shocked.
“He was traumatised.
“We don’t really know what happened. He had a problem with his gas cooker.”
“We hope he’s getting better.”
The explosion caused a flashback fire in Mr Karani’s accommodation, a single room inside an articulated lorry, converted into a caravan.
Firefighters from St Annes and Blackpool fire stations made the area around the caravan safe while paramedics treated Mr Karani, who remained conscious, at the site before taking him to Royal Preston Hospital.
Maureen Carter, manager of the Wow! Circus, said his colleagues bravely carried on with yesterday evening’s performance despite their concerns for their friend.
She said: “We don’t know what happened. He was alone in the room. He was taken to Preston first and then transferred.
“His troupe leader went with him but then came back for the show, they’re professional people.”
Other performers who were living in the same lorry as Mr Karani were moved into different accommodation and the area around the caravan was cordoned off while investigators carry out their work.
Jonny Williams, crew manager at St Annes fire station, said: “All we know at this time is the incident involved a propane gas cylinder.
“We weren’t faced with any flames but we cordoned off the area and investigated the nature of the incident.
“This is an ongoing investigation.”
Police officers and health and safety officials remained at the scene yesterday evening.
A police spokesman said: “We had reports that a gas bottle had exploded and a 28-year-old man had been injured.
“We attended the scene, a cordon was put up and we are investigating the circumstances of the incident.”
An ambulance spokesman said: “We treated a 28-year-old male with a number of serious burns, including to his head, arms and legs.
“He was taken to Royal Preston Hospital, which was on standby, indicating quite a strong level of seriousness.
“He was transferred later in the afternoon to Wythenshawe Hospital by helicopter.”
Gerry Cottle’s Wow! Circus has been performing at The Globe Theatre since Friday, September 21 and will continue through to Saturday, November 3.