A GWANDALAN man died yesterday morning after after his vehicle exploded in front of his house in a series of blasts that were so strong that they blew out windows in neighbouring houses and were heard for kilometres around.
Police were still to officially name the man yesterday afternoon but relatives on the scene confirmed his name as Alan Bull, of Quinalup Street, Gwandalan.
The size of the explosion led neighbours to fear that a bomb had gone off, but fire brigade and forensic investigators were looking at whether his vehicle was gas powered, and whether a gas leak had ignited and then triggered subsequent explosions in adjacent gas cylinders.
Neighbours said they were woken by an enormous blast soon after 7am yesterday and raced out to see Mr Bull's vehicle alight. At least two men helped Mr Bull away from the flames before ambulance and fire brigade officers arrived shortly after.
Police said in a statement that the men performed CPR on Mr Bull before paramedics arrived.
Six ambulance crews, including a specialist medical team, were sent to the scene. They continued CPR and treated Mr Bull for significant burns but despite everyone's efforts he died at the scene.
Gwandalan and nearby Summerland Point are on a narrow spike of land that separates Lake Macquarie from Lake Munmorah, with Gwandalan looking east across to Nords Wharf and Summerland Point facing west to Morisset and Wyee.
The blast was heard right across the area.
On what should have been a celebratory Father's Day morning, residents at the southern-most block of Quinalup Street and nearby Imga Street were evacuated from their homes because of fears of further explosions.
Officers from Tuggerah Lakes Police District established a crime scene and were investigating along with police from a specialist forensics unit, which arrived later in the day.
A police helicopter hovered over the scene for some time during the morning.
With Quinalup Street taped off between Koowong Road and Imga Street, there were scenes of extreme emotion at the Imga Street end when Mr Bull's wife, and his adult daughter Tamika, arrived in a car. They spoke with - and were comforted by - officers at the scene.
Tamika was still there some time later, staring in disbelief at the house where her father had lived alone.
She did not wish to speak publicly about her father but neighbours said he was about 60 years old and had only lived there for a year or two and "kept to himself".
"He was up for a chat, and I know he was working on things, but that's about all I know about him," one neighbour said.
The crime scene exclusion zone made it hard to determine the exact amount of damage but neighbours said a house on one side of Mr Bull's caught fire and a number of houses lost windows.
Phillip and Taneel James, who live with their children Lucas, three, and Harrison, one, were shocked awake by the explosion, which smashed a window pane above Lucas's bed.
"We're lucky he was sleeping up the other end of the bed," his father said.
"It wasn't the way you expect to start Father's Day."