PHOTOS and clocks fell from the walls of several Springdale Heights homes after a powerful van explosion yesterday morning sent shrapnel flying into a neighbouring retirement village.
The force of the explosion twisted the metal frame of the stolen Mitsubishi Express, flinging hot metal panels from Strauss Street into the nearby Albury Lifestyle Village about 4.20am.
Police believe the vehicle may have been used in a ram raid at the National Environment Centre in Thurgoona at 2.15am, after it was stolen from Wilson Street in Albury.
The vehicle was dumped in Strauss Street, and a witness said it had been deliberately lit in an arson attack.
One large piece of the van flew 150 metres and landed at the back of the village administration building.
Several other residents had pieces of metal land on their roofs, on footpaths and in gardens and people heard the noise of the blast from several hundred metres away.
Resident Ray Buscombe said the explosion was so loud, he thought a plane had crashed.
“It shook the house and there was a big flash of light that came through the windows,” he said.
One witness, who asked not to be named, said two vehicles had been driving on Strauss Street without headlights before stopping.
The van, which was fuelled by LPG, was set on fire and the occupants got into the second vehicle, watched the van burn for about 15 seconds, and drove off.
The witness tried to extinguish the fire with a garden hose, but took cover after hearing a hissing sound.
“I bailed out while hearing the hiss; I knew she was going to go bang,” he said.
“I told residents to get inside and shut the windows because of the toxic smoke.”
The man felt the heat of a “large fireball” come from the vehicle.
Phyllys Shadbolt said the force of the explosion had caused a photo inside her home to fall from a cabinet and most residents at the village were woken by the noise.
“It’s a wonder no one was killed,” she said.
“The house shook.”