FORT PIERCE, Florida — A vehicle packed with propane tanks exploded inside an apartment building after police say it was driven into the building by a man who was targeting a woman living there after a fight with her.
“He intended to do damage. He raced his car into this apartment where five people were, intending to kill them, blow the place up, or create some kind of havoc,” Ed Cunningham, Fort Pierce Police Department spokesman said.
The woman and her three-year-old child were inside.
“I’ve never seen anything like that. That was crazy,” Kathy Toledo, witness said.
Toledo and her husband saw the immediate aftermath of the crash and a fast-growing fire.
“My husband ran over with a fire extinguisher to try to put the fire out,” Toledo said.
Pablo Toledo rushed to save an elderly woman gripping the rail upstairs.
“She wouldn’t move. Like, she wouldn’t let go of that railing, so I just ran up there and grabbed her,” Pablo Toledo said.
Chris Garcia was in a next-door unit.
“I heard the impact. It was pretty hard. Shook the house. Vibrated the couch, the walls — everything,” Chris Garcia said.
Garcia grabbed his wife and children.
“The building is bursting into flames, so I told them ‘no, it’s on fire. We’ve got get out of here,'” Garcia said.
Moments later, while Kathy Toledo was recording cell phone video, there was an explosion.
“The fire, it just got to where we had to step back, and then a few seconds later, it blew up,” Pablo Toledo said.
The driver of the vehicle, 31-year-old Carl Philbert, died at the scene, police said. According to police, he and the woman he was targeting got into a fight Tuesday morning, July 4th and when he showed up at the apartment, he didn’t like something he saw. They noted he had a history of domestic trouble with this particular woman, and they’re using this case to encourage domestic violence victims to get help.
“Call the police if there’s an issue. Don’t let it come to this,” Cunningham said.