The Knucklehead of the Day award

Today’s winner is Melvin Gonzalez. He gets the award for the following.

Melvin Gonzalez, a welder, was motoring through Hialeah early Thursday morning in a van filled with with gasoline, acetylene, compressed oxygen and other tools of his trade.

He lit a cigarette. The van exploded.

The flash fire incinerated the inside of his van, peeled the paint right off the exterior and scattered knives, a hydraulic jack, and wrenches onto the street.

But it didn’t kill Gonzalez — although his near self-immolation was captured by a surveillance camera from a nearby business and made it onto CNN. Firefighters found Gonzalez sitting on the side of the road.

He was taken to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital and was expected to be released as early as Thursday night.

”Apparently there was a leak,” said Luis Simon, spokesman for the Hialeah Fire Department, “We noticed the hose coming out of the tank. If there was a leak, it must have been a build-up of gas.”

It happened around 7 a.m. at East Fourth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets.

The cigarette ignited gas fumes in the van and set off the explosion.

The van’s roof ended up in the parking lot of a shopping mall across the street. The explosion took out a royal palm tree that was about 40 feet away. The heat from the blast bent the security steel bars on the front of some of the businesses.

”What saved him was the passenger-side divider that apparently directed the blunt of the explosion behind him,” Simon said.

The blast occurred in front of a day-care center. None of the children was there at the time of the explosion.

How clueless can be a person be to have cigarette near so many things liable to explode? That no innocnet bystanders were killed or seriously injured sounds like a minor miracle. Melvin Gonzalez survived the blast, but he won’t survive July 5th 2008 without being named today’s Knucklehead of the Day.

The Other Side Of The Coin