19 June, 1985
Chlorine, Gas Fueled Fatal Fire
By Paul Mickle
Princeton TWP. – The fire that killed a construction foreman for the Russell Estates project Monday probably was sparked by gasoline splashing on chlorine tablets in the storage trailer that burned, Mercer County authorities said yesterday after identifying the victim.
Assistant Mercer Fire Marshal James M. Greschak disclosed the likely cause of the blaze after township police identified the victim as Christian Abbes, 43, of Locust in the Monmouth County township of Middletown.
Police said Abbes was a foreman for Sambol Construction Co. of Toms River, the firm at work on a planned housing development off Edgerstoune Road, where the trailer that burned was situated.
Greschak said Abbes was at work in the storage trailer when “somehow gasoline came into contact with a small quantity of chlorine tablets kept there in a cardboard box.” He said the fire spread as Abbes pushed tanks holding oxygen and acetylene from the trailer and then, for reasons unknown, returned to the structure.
The fire marshal said the gas and chlorine combination, in addition to sparking the blaze, apparently gave off toxic fumes. But he said its was not known if the fumes or smoke from the burning structure killed the foreman.
Police said Abbes was overcome about six feet from the trailer door after Princeton firemen doused the blaze, which broke out at about 10:50 a.m. Monday.