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By Josh Bailie

When the Sunrise Propane depot exploded, sending firetrucks wailing and residents fleeing from a mushroom cloud in their pajamas, Reuben John Tumanguil grabbed his digital camera and started recording.

“Someone’s gotta document it,” said the second-year electrical engineering student. “People are gonna want to know what went down.”

That penchant for danger is now paying off, in the form of YouTube celebrity and offers of money. Tumanguil is expecting a cheque for $50 so the government can use his footage in a disaster response training video.

At 3:50 a.m. on Aug. 10, Tumanguil was woken up by a tremendous bang. As he got up, he felt the house shake under another monstrous boom.

“It wasn’t until I heard running footsteps outside that I thought ‘OK, something’s wrong,’” he said.

When he stepped outside his rented basement and into the streets, he saw the usually dark morning sky aflame and heavy with smoke.

He didn’t know what had happened, but he knew he needed to get a better look. He watched the disaster through the small LCD on his digital camera.

In the YouTube video that followed, Tumanguil narrated over visuals of billowing smoke clouds, multiple explosions, stores with their windows blown out, cars frantically honking and fire trucks speeding by.

It looks apocalyptic, but Tumanguil himself wasn’t in any imminent danger.

“People were watching as if they were watching fireworks, but at the same time they were like ‘We’ve got to get out of here,’” he said.

When his video went up on Youtube, it was an immediate hit. Tumanguil received 81 YouTube honours and was on the ‘Most Viewed’ list for 17 different countries.

His video was the most watched in Canada on the day it was released. To date, it has has more than 200,000 views.

As one comment on the video pointed out, “This is like Cloverfield!”

One New York firefighter sent him a private message explaining how much it reminded him of 9/11.

Within days, he was contacted by Dan Wallace from Allan Joyner Productions, an Ottawa company that provides videos for government training programs. Before the propane blast, the company had been planning a video to prime emergency workers for dealing with large urban explosions. Tumanguil’s footage was exactly what they needed to complete the project.

Wallace liked Tumanguil’s video because “you see things other than just the fireball. There’s some people on the street, some firetrucks and traffic etc.”

To see Tumanguil’s video, search YouTube for the channel “TVK1337”. He will also be posting another video that shows the aftermath of the blast.

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