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Fatal vehicle explosion in front of Kitchener courthouse

Photo by Phi Doan, Kitchener Today.

A chaotic scene in front of the Kitchener courthouse Friday morning.

One person is dead following a vehicle fire and explosion in the Frederick and Duke Street area of Kitchener.

Regional Police and Kitchener Fire crews were called to the scene at around 10:30 a.m., and were able to quickly extinguish the blaze.

The vehicle itself was parked on Duke Street, across from the parking garage.

Mike Sylvester is a construction worker at a highrise building going up at the corner of Duke and Frederick.

“I just came back to the job site, and heard this loud bang and looked up at the building to see what it was,” he said, “I had seen the flames shooting out from over here.”

He said it sounded “almost like a tail gate on a dump truck slamming shut.”

Aaron McComb works with Sylvester, but wasn’t working and was checking out the area with his wife and children when it happened.

He, along with another bystander, went to the vehicle and realized someone was inside.

However when the car door was opened up, the flames were too much to handle.

“The flames were so intense, they were so hot,” he said, “It was really tough, so I backed off and we tried to call 911.”

McComb notes there were a couple smaller explosions when he contemplated going back over, and with his loved ones at the scene, he decided against it.

Instead, he helped to block off the road and got his wife to move their vehicle, parked beside the courthouse on Frederick.

“The smoke was very thick, very black,” he said, “And the wind was blowing it…directly over us.”

“We were getting the full effect, and there was shrapnel.  A couple of the explosions sent shrapnel in the air, and I absolutely didn’t want my family to be a part of that.”

The identity of the deceased, as well as a cause, is unknown.

Roads are closed in the area with a large police presence on scene.

With files from Christine Clark.

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