FORT PIERCE — Break-ups can be messy things, but 31-year-old Carl Philbert took it to the next level this week.
Philbert, upset with his ex-girlfriend over a reported altercation they had at her Fort Pierce apartment Tuesday morning, proceeded to drive his car into said apartment, having loaded it with four tanks of propane.
Immediately after the collision, both the white four-door sedan and the building itself caught fire, and the propane tanks exploded, killing Philbert.
It’s unclear what Philbert’s endgame was; presumably he didn’t intend to immolate himself, but had other mayhem in mind.
“He intended to do damage,” said Fort Pierce Police Department spokesman Ed Cunningham. “’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.”
Four generations of Philbert’s ex-girlfriend’s family were in the apartment, including her mother, her 26-year-old daughter Eileen Cuevas and Cuevas’s 3-year-old son.
The ex-girlfriend saw the car coming from the front room, and Cuevas gathered the inhabitants of the apartment and rushed them out the back door as Philbert crashed through the front windows.
“I just wanted people to help him because I saw his body burning,” Cuevas said. “You never want to see a thing like that. I saw his body, everything on fire.”
Cuevas went on to indicate she didn’t know the exact cause for Philbert’s extreme action.
“It’s very personal. It’s still weird talking about it. He was trying to get to my mom. It was meant for everybody that was in the house,” Cuevas explained. “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 for our family, so it’s kind of touchy.”
See the just released body cam video of the officers responding to the fireball below:
A neighbor, Kathy Toledo, caught the explosion on video. Amazingly, Philbert was the only casualty, and no one else was injured. Kathy’s husband, Pablo Toledo, helped the evacuation of his neighbors, guiding the elderly woman living in the unit above the burning apartment down the stairs and to safety.
“She was engulfed in smoke, so that’s why I had to act,” Pablo said, “so I just ran up there. I really didn’t think about the fire was going to get me. I just ran up there, grabbed her and came down. She continued thanking me.”
All of the units in the apartment building suffered at least some damage from the fire, which the state Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating.
Not the sort of fireworks one expects at this time of year.