Gas explosion leaves young man scarred and unemployed

Martin Gebhard

Martin Gebhard (24) is traumatised after a gas explosion at his workplace left him with burn injuries on his body.

In addition, Gebhard says his employer reportedly abandoned him following the accident.

The gas explosion occurred at a Dordabis farm he worked at in early November last year, he says.

His injuries have left him unfit for any type of work due to deformities on his body and hands, he adds.

“I was working for a plumbing company that I joined in 2017 till the date of the incident on 2 November 2023. It was around 16h00 when I went in to the tent where we keep our equipment, which includes petrol containers, and that is the same place workers prepared their food. When I entered the tent, it turned out someone had lit the gas and left a pot cooking and I walked towards the pot when I noticed the petrol container was too close to the gas, but before I could reach there, there was an explosion and I got caught in the explosion, whereby my body was covered with fire,” says Gebhard.

“I sustained burns all over my body from head to toe, and there was no water to pour on me at the time to put out the fire, so the [fire] spread all over me.”

Gebhard says he was transported to the Katutura Intermediate Hospital by a private car, as there was no ambulance.
“I sat in the pick-up truck covered with a wet blanket. I was covered in blisters and my skin was peeling off. I felt as though I was in hell,” he recalls.

Martin Gebhard

Gebhard says he felt abandoned by his employer who even though he was aware of the accident at his farm, refused to compensate him or pay for his treatment.

Gebhard says his employer claims that despite the accident occurring at his farm, it happened after everyone had knocked off.

Further, he says his employer said doctors reportedly called him but he never picked up their calls.

“My employer Cobus Swart refused to contribute to my treatment. There was even a time when there was no medicine. We couldn’t afford it anymore and my sister had to go around to beg for money,” he says.

Gebhard, who spent more than three months in hospital, says he just wants the company to compensate him.

“I am disabled now, my hands are no longer straight and I have been declared unfit for work. I am depressed as a result.”

Gebhard’s sister, Helena Amagulu, has been taking care of him since the accident.

“I received a call from the hospital informing me of what happened to my brother. When I got to see him, I didn’t expect what I saw. I thought it was minor burns. When I he arrived, the blanket covering him fell down. I was heartbroken to see his condition. I was so shocked and traumatised,” she says.

“We didn’t have hope that he will make it, but by God’s grace, he survived. We just want the company to do the right thing and compensate my brother,” she adds.

When contacted by The Namibian earlier this week, Swart, the owner of Kairo’s Plumbing, said Gebhard’s accident was due to personal negligence.

He added that Social Security and workman’s compensation should be responsible for him.

“I know the young man was working for my company but the incident happened after hours. He took a 25 litre container of petrol and went to start a fire outside. The petrol spilled on him and that’s how he ended up getting burnt. If the incident happened during work, only then should I be responsible for compensation,” said Swart.

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