By Casey Neill
SIX people are in a critical condition following an explosion in a Springvale bank.
Police allege that a 21-year-old Springvale man entered the Commonwealth Bank on Springvale Road about 11.30am on Friday 18 November with “some sort of accelerant”.
Greater Dandenong Police Service Area Acting Inspector Jacqui Poida said the man lit the accelerant, which caused a fire.
“He set himself alight with that fire and there was a number of other people within the bank at that time that received some injuries as well,” she said.
“He left the bank.
“Police attended shortly after and assisted him, followed by the ambulance who also attended to him at the rear of the bank.”
The man was taken to The Alfred hospital under police guard.
Act Insp Poida said it was too early in the investigation to tell what the man’s motive was, and said it was also too early to tell if it was terror-related.
“At this point in time we don’t know much about him at all,” he said.
“We haven’t had a chance to speak with him.
“He has got burns injuries and they are of a serious nature.”
She said a crime scene was in place and the arson squad was investigating.
She urged anyone who witnessed the incident to contact Crime Stoppers.
“There’s a lot of people to talk to,” she said.
Dandenong CFA operations officer Paul Carrigg said the Springvale and Dandenong crews were on the scene within about 90 seconds of receiving reports of a person on fire in the bank.
“Fire was evident inside the building, so they entered with breathing apparatus and hose lines and rescued 25 people with a range of injuries from minor burns right through to significant injury burns,” he said.
Mr Carrigg said the firefighters brought the victims outside, where they were triaged and treated.
He said there was “absolutely” evidence of an explosion and the bank had suffered significant damage.
“There would have been a lot of flame to start with and a lot of smoke,” he said.
He said members of the public had used a fire extinguisher to fight the flames prior to the CFA arriving and provided water to the victims.
Mr Carrigg said it was amazing no-one had lost their lives.
But Ambulance Victoria group manager Andy Roughton said that was still a possibility.
“I hope that’s not the case, but there’s a chance,” he said.
Mr Roughton said paramedics responded to 26 patients and transported them to hospital with a mixture of burns and respiratory issues.
Twenty-five ambulances attended the scene, including a health commander and ambulance mangers, an emergency support vehicle, and ambulance buses.
Two men in their twenties, a man in his sixties, a man in his seventies, a woman in her twenties and another man were in a critical condition with serious burns in The Alfred hospital.
“Initially the scene was quite chaotic,” Mr Roughton said.
“We had to escalate to the highest level of our emergency response plan.”
The other patients ranged in age from a toddler, to people in their eighties.