The Florida man who killed himself when he drove a vehicle filled with propane tanks into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment complex July 4 has been identified by authorities.
Carl Philbert, 31, was described by Fort Pierce Public Information Officer Ed Cunningham as being “upset” when his car crashed into his ex-girlfriend’s home at the Palm Court Apartments.
Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze and later said that nobody in the complex was injured in the incident.
Police said that Philbert is a Haitian immigrant and had been having domestic trouble with his ex-girlfriend, who lives with her family in the Fort Pierce complex.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Crash Caused a Large Fire at the Apartment Complex
According to Fort Pierce police, at around 12:45 p.m. EDT on July 4, Philbert used a white four-door sedan to crash through the front windows his ex-girlfriend’s family apartment on the 400 block of Palm Avenue.
The crash caused a large fire at the complex and the propane inside of the vehicle later exploded, causing the fire to roar out of control. The incident was captured on a dramatic video by Kathy Toledo, a woman that lives next door to the complex.
In the video, the car is seen on fire and the woman’s voice is heard saying, “There was an old lady in the apartment upstairs right above the car and (he) tried to carry her out.” Just as she says that, a large explosion occurs to the shock of those standing nearby.
“That whole building’s going to catch on fire,” she says before yelling an expletive at firefighters as she asks them to put the fire out.
2. The Crash Left 18 People Displaced, but Nobody Else Was Hurt
Firefighters were eventually able to calm the blaze and ensure safety of residents, but not before a large amount of damage was done.
The monetary extent of the damage hasn’t been determined yet, but it did damage to eight units in the complex and displaced 18 of its residents. Thankfully, all of those people inside were able to evacuate sufficiently. The Red Cross arrived on scene shortly after and assisted five children and 13 adults.
Police said that Philbert, originally from Haiti, had been living at a motel in Fort Pierce and worked at a grocery store in the area.
3. The Woman’s Daughter Said She Saw Philbert’s Body Burning
Eileen Cuevas, the 26-year-old daughter of Philbert’s ex-girlfriend, said to TC Palm that her mother was in the front room when she saw Philbert driving toward the apartment in a rage.
“My mother was cooking,” Cuevas said to the news outlet. “She saw him like coming full force at our living room, and she was trying to warn us as we were sitting on the couch, but it was too late and he had already come in and hit the window and he drove through our living room.”
Cuevas said that she was there with her 3-year-old son, who she grabbed and ran to safety with.
“As soon as he came in through the window, I just jumped up and grabbed my son, ran out the back door with him,” Cuevas added. “I got my mother and my grandmother and everyone out of the house.”
She said she wasn’t aware what it was that made Philbert so angry, and that he had “four or five propane tanks” inside of the car. She also witnessed Philbert burning alive.
“I just wanted people to help him because I saw his body burning,” she said. “You never want to see a thing like that. I saw his body, everything on fire.”
4. Philbert & His Ex-Girlfriend Had a History of Domestic Trouble
At a press briefing shortly after the incident, Cunningham said that Philbert and his ex-girlfriend had a history of domestic trouble. He said that the two got into an argument during the morning when Philbert showed up at the complex. Philbert apparently didn’t like something that he saw inside of the apartment, returned about two hours later and crashed into the building intentionally.
Cunningham said there was no doubt that Philbert wanted to kill as many people as he could at the complex. The five people inside of the unit managed to escape out of the back door as the fire started and then spiraled out of control.
“He intended to do damage,” Cunningham said. “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.”
5. One Man Helped an Elderly Woman to Safety
Toledo’s husband Pablo was one of the people who ran into the building to assist people as they tried to evacuate the hectic scene. He said that he noticed an elderly woman near the fire and his instincts kicked in as he ran to save her.
“I just ran up there and grabbed her,” he told NBC in West Palm Beach. “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.”
Pablo later told TC Palm that he grabbed a fire extinguisher to try and put out the blaze before fire crews arrived.
“I came running out this way, and I saw there was a gentleman trying to put a fire out in a car that was jammed into the corner,” Pablo said to the news outlet. “So I ran and got my fire extinguisher and tried to help, and when I came back it was worse. It felt like it kept growing.”
The explosion shook the surrounding neighborhood, and a neighbor described the life-threatening moment to the NBC news station.
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.