Town in mourning

MESSAGE TO FIGHT: Barry remembered for selfless nature

THE Rochester community was in shock yesterday upon hearing news of a gas explosion that claimed one man's life and left another critical. 

Barry Purtell 34, died in hospital on Sunday night following the incident at the Rochester Hotel. 

Dave Lobb, 52, remains in an induced coma at the Alfred Hospital. 

The men, both from Rochester, were in the cellar of the hotel to remove a refridgerant compressor when the explosion occured just after 1.30pm.

Ian Crouch, of the Shamrock Hotel, said Rochester was "a ghost town" in wake of the incident. 

"Business today has been so slow - people are in shock, they're staying at home," he said. 

Business today has been so slow - people are in shock, they're staying at home. - Ian Crouch

"They just don't know what's going on."

He said it was tragic that because of a freak accident, a man's life had been taken too soon. 

"It's too early to comment on what happened but it's just so sad what can happen so quickly," Mr Crouch said. 

"Things like this rock small towns - there's no doubt about that."

One resident said a "gloomy cloud" had come over Rochester, following Sunday's tragedy. 

Rochester Mitre 10's Russell Anderson said no-one seemed to know what had caused the incident. 

A fund has been set up to help Mr Purtell’s two children and to aid in Mr Lobb's recovery. 

The bank account is titled "Give a little to two mates who gave a lot"; BSB: 013770, ACC: 288805878. 

An Ambulance Victoria spokesman said it was believed some ammonia had ignited and caused the explosion. Victoria Police and WorkCover are investigating. 

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