Car packed with propane tanks smashes into Florida apartments

Driver killed, 18 people displaced

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Fort Pierce (Fla.) police say a man drove his car into a Fort Pierce apartment building Tuesday, killing himself and displacing 18 people.

St. Lucie County firefighters said the car burst into flames following the crash.

Fort Pierce Police say the driver, 31-year-old Carl Philbert, packed the car with four propane tanks, putting one in the front seat and three in the back.

Police say he was targeting a woman inside one of the bottom level apartments. Police said Philbert used to have a relationship with the woman.

Police believe the man and woman got into an argument Tuesday morning. Apparently Philbert showed up to the residence and did not like something that he saw inside.

As a result, police said a couple hours later, he crashed into the building intentionally.

“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,” said Fort Pierce police spokesman Ed Cunningham.

Cunningham said the woman's 3-year-old son was also inside. All five people were able to escape out a back door.

Police say Philbert has a history of domestic trouble with the woman he targeted Tuesday. He has been living in a Fort Pierce motel and working at a local grocery store, according to police.

Witness Kathy Toledo lives in a home next to the apartment complex. She started recording cellphone video after the crash, only to capture an explosion moments later.

Her husband, Pablo Toledo, was able to help an elderly woman get out of her apartment before the fire became to dangerous.

"I just ran up there and grabbed her. There was a bunch of smoke and fire but I just ran up there, grabbed her, and put her over by the grass. Then I tried to help out with the car, but by that time, no fire extinguisher was getting it out," Toledo said.

Chris Garcia said his apartment shook when the car crashed into his neighbor's unit.

“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. 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 are being assisted by Red Cross.

Fire rescue, Fort Pierce Police Department and the State Fire Marshal Office are investigating.

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