Barry's message to fight

GAS BLAST AT HOTEL: How the tragedy unfolded

BARRY Purtell, who lost his life after a gas explosion in Rochester on Sunday, wouldn't have wanted the attention on him. 

"He wouldn't have wanted anyone focusing on the pain - just the hope," close friend Ashley Conway said. 

"He would have wanted us all to rally behind Dave (Lobb, who was critically injured as a result of the blast). 

"He would have said, come on, stop crying and be there for Dave."

Mr Purtell, 34, of Rochester, was helping a friend - as he so often did - at the Rochester Hotel when the flash fire erupted in the cellar about 1.30pm on Sunday. 

He would have said, come on, stop crying, and be there for Dave.

Ashley Conway

Ms Conway said Mr Purtell  had used his hard hat to scoop water over his injured friend in a final act of kindness. 

"He was the most selfless guy I knew and was helping until the last minute," she said. 

"I have known him for eight months and he was going to be the groomsman at our wedding. 

"He was just so loyal and I know he will still be looking after us even now."

Nanneella's Tony Murphy and his family remembered Mr Purtell as a perfectionist and a larrikin who once dunked a goldfish in a glass of beer. 

Mr Murphy said the father-of-two was a rough diamond who had just been putting his life back together. 

"I knew him from the transport industry and he just wandered back into our lives looking for casual work," Mr Murphy said. 

"He never minded sleeping on our couch - he wasn't into possessions or anything like that. 

"He just lived for the moment and loved to laugh."

The pub was in the process of changing owners when Sunday's incident occured, with 'final drinks' taking place the night before the incident. 

Ms Conway said Mr Lobb, who suffered burns to 40 to 50 per cent of his body and remains in an induced coma at the Alfred Hospital, lived and worked in town as a welder. 

He had also come to help at Sunday's working bee.  

"It was just the night before that we had brought up him the front of the pub to do a speech and told him he was a customer-turned-friend," Ms Conway said. 

"He has a long fight ahead of him now and Barry would want us to fight with him."

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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