A man with loaded propane tanks in his car rammed into the apartment building where his former girlfriend lived, killing himself, Florida police said.
Carl Philbert, 31, had packed his car with four propane tanks into his car – one in the front seat and three in the back – before smashing into the building, Fort Piece police spokesman Ed Cunningham told reporters.
He said Philbert, an immigrant from Haiti, was targeting a woman inside one of the bottom-level apartments.
Police said Philbert apparently showed up Tuesday morning and did not like something he saw inside. He return a few hours later with the propane tanks.
“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,” Cunningham said, according to WPTV.
All five people and a 3-year-old boy inside the apartment escaped out the back door unhurt.
Philbert had a history of domestic trouble with the woman he targeted, police said.
Eileen Cuevas, 26, told Treasure Coast Newspapers that her mother was in the front room of the family’s apartment when Philbert, her mother’s ex-boyfriend, drove the car into the building.
“My mother was cooking. She saw him, like, coming full force at our living room, and she was trying to warn us as we were sitting on the couch, but it was too late and he had already come in and hit the window,” she said. “And he drove through our living room.”
Cuevas added: “As soon as he came in through the window, I jumped up and grabbed my son, ran out the back door with him. I got my mother and my grandmother and everyone out of the house.”
Soon after, the vehicle caught fire and exploded.
“My wife grabbed our baby girl and went to the bedroom, and both of the kids were running to the back and I saw that and I was like oh heck no,” neighbor Chris Garcia said. “The building is bursting into flames. So I told them, ‘no it’s on fire, we’ve got get out of here.’”
Thirteen adults and five children have been displaced. The American Red Cross is assisting.
Cuevas said she doesn’t know what triggered the angry reaction from Philbert.
“It’s very personal,” she said. “It’s still weird talking about it. He was trying to get to my mom. It was meant for everyone that was in the house. I mean, the man had four or five propane tanks in the car. They were friends and it turned out really bad. This is very personal to our family, so it’s kind of touchy.”
The incident is being investigated by fire officials, police and the state fire marshal's office.