All seven boilers had a red light: a warning signal. I smelled gas all morning: yet another. Something was wrong. The radiators were not heating. The cold crept into every nook and cranny of the seven floors of the Church building that blew through the air last Wednesday. There, distributed among the different floors, were five priests. Gabriel Benedicto, Alejandro Aravena, Moisés León, Matías Ernesto Quintana and Rubén Pérez de Ayala. None are over 45 years old. The latter, Rubén Pérez, decided to call a friend. An emergency call. He got in touch with David Santos, 35. Santos is a maintenance technician and an exemplary Catholic who knew the seven floors of this central building by heart. Del Atleti, he was a regular at the parish, to which he went almost daily. At 2:37 p.m., according to sources close to the investigation, his mobile phone rang:
– David, come on, this smells a lot like gas.
– I ‘m coming.
David Santos was right on the next street. He lived in the neighborhood with his wife, Sara, and their four children. When he arrived at the building, priest Pérez was waiting for him. 20 minutes later, everything was blown up. “They went up, they came down, the two of them must have been together seven minutes at most. It was all very fast ”, has related the priest Gabriel Benedicto, according to sources of the investigation. He is miraculously alive. “Minutes before, I touched the radiators and they were neither hot nor cold. It was clear that something was wrong “. Benedict had been away for four hours. Upon arrival, he went upstairs and began to eat, like the rest of the parish priests. “We ran into each other before they started to find out what was going on. It was all very fast, very fast. I remember that after the explosion smoke would not stop coming out of the elevator ”.
The priest and the maintenance technician passed away. The explosion also took the lives of two people who were walking down the street. Javier Gandía, 45, a bricklayer who worked in the building across the street and a neighbor of La Puebla de Almoradiel, a town of 5,000 residents of Toledo. He was married and had two children. According to his mayor, he went almost daily to work in the capital. “All the neighbors are devastated.” The fourth and last deceased is Ivanov Korhev, a citizen of Bulgarian origin, he was also in Toledo Street number 98. This Thursday he would have turned 47.
It was a spectacular explosion. The block has remained in the bones. The entire street strewn with rubble, a carpet of small stones; brick remnants of the building’s walls interspersed with ice from snow and fallen trees from the storm Filomena. A picture of war 15 minutes from Puerta del Sol. 16 cars have been damaged by the firecracker and removed from ground zero. In the building there were seven domestic boilers. The first investigations point to a great condensation of gas between all the plants. An invisible air pocket that, in the face of any spark, such as the simple gesture of pressing the light switch in the living room or bathroom, can cause a tragedy, according to the experts consulted.
The 10 injured are fine. The other four priests were unharmed. “But still with the scare in the body”, they relate in their surroundings. The priest Matías Ernesto was on the top floor. After the explosion, he took out his mobile and recorded a video for his family, who live in Paraguay. Ernesto literally thought he was going to die. He sent, just in case, a farewell message with a serene tone for the moment of the events: “Our house has just exploded through the gas pipeline. I’m stuck on the fifth floor and I can’t get down. Pray for me. I don’t know if they can rescue me from here. Our house has exploded ”. The video has flown through multiple WhatsApp groups. In it you can see a whole floor plan without walls and without ceilings. Just rubble. Ernesto was rescued by firefighters.
The structure of the building has been badly damaged. “It is clear that there has been a deflagration due to a large accumulation of the gas bag,” said the councilor of the Urban Development Area, Mariano Fuentes, “but it is not known if it was the boiler, if it was the pipe … Everything indicates that it was at the top, which is where the greatest impact was generated, but it is being analyzed. It has not been possible to search the entire building because it is of ‘look at me and do not touch me’, they cannot enter. That is why the demolition will be done with a basket and from the outside ”. The National Police have inspected all the parts with small drones and with a guide dog. No one guarantees that with one footfall everything will collapse.
There are still three residential buildings affected. The gas has been cut off in much of the street. 80 families, who live in the blocks adjacent to the building, will be able to return to their homes between this Thursday and Friday. The other building that shares a dividing wall is the La Salle-La Paloma school. 98% of the 215 students were supposed to be on the playground at the time of the explosion, but it was full of snow and they couldn’t get out. Filomena He gave them a hand.
The sound of the explosion scared the elders and some had an anxiety attack. The little ones didn’t understand anything. And the parents, 24 hours later, were still assimilating “what could have happened.” “My wife called me crying and saying that the schoolyard had exploded and I ran away,” says Roberto Prada, father of a five-year-old boy and secretary of the center’s parents’ association. “I live on the street of Toledo, at the end, next to the river, and I spent the worst 10 minutes of my life. In general, we are more touched than children. Because you think about it and the world is on you ”. Right now they don’t know when face-to-face classes will return, but they don’t care too much either.
The neighborhood is still in shock. Manolo Río, 50, is the butcher of the La Paloma market, just in front of the explosion building. It also offers some prawn and cod omelets at 14 euros per kilo. Five minutes before the explosion, he got into the car with the fishmonger and the greengrocer. “I found out because people kept calling me asking how I was doing.” Rubén Pérez, the deceased priest, visited his post last Tuesday. He took two steaks of beef.