Eleven-year-old William Watt Jr. is an active and outgoing young man, with the sort of qualities displayed by many kids his age. But a chance encounter with dangerous levels of explosive gas fumes has brought him into the limelight.
William happened to be cycling with his dad by Castlegar Primary earlier this week when he smelled what he knew didn’t belong.
“We were riding by the schools (on 7th Avenue in Castlegar) when my son slams on his brakes,” recalled the elder Watt. “I kept going about a half a block further than him and looked back. He’s walking up to the school. He called me over and asked if I could smell gas. I said no, but as soon as I got closer to the school I could smell it.
So we phoned the 1-800 number for the gas company.”
A part of the series of events following the incident has been the invitation for William to be a guest competitor at a local mini-race track in Ooteshenia, namely the 454 Offroad Raceway located behind the West Kootenay Regional Airport at 454 Ootischenia Road.
“I heard about what Bill Junior did,” said track operator Mark Froley on Friday afternoon, “and wanted to offer him a chance to come out and do a race in the novice class of our radio controlled car event.”
William will have a new (and fast) car under his control and he was getting the hang of it on July 26, doing quite well.
He will be eligible for the car raffle to be held during the scheduled action on the BC Day long weekend.
“I just think the sport’s pretty cool and it’s fun to get out and race these little cars,” said Bill Jr. of the units that can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000. It’s not all new to the youth as he has a gas-powered car he’s put through a fair number of spin-outs.
The incident with the leaking gas, strongly suspected to have been the result of vandalism, was safely and effectively dealt with and the value of young Watt’s role in the drama has not been downplayed in the aftermath.
The episode contained ingredients that could have led to a catastrophe had things played out differently.
“That’s quite an important thing,” stated Castlegar Fire Chief Gerry Rempel on July 26. “When a building fills up with natural gas like that, it doesn’t take a lot to ignite it.
When it’s in an enclosed space it is certainly quite explosive.”
The chief signed off with hearty kudos for the young Watt’s nose.
“If he’d of not detected it, who knows? That could have been going all night,” said Rempel who added that detonation could have occurred with a tiny spark from a flipped light switch, or pilot light from a gas appliance.