Local News

Former WRAL photographer, wife injured in explosion

Posted January 4, 2011

— A former WRAL News photographer and his wife were injured Monday night after a scuba tank fell in their garage and exploded, according to Fayetteville fire officials.

Rick Allen, 47, suffered severe burns over 20 percent of his body and had to have his left forearm amputated, according to friends. He was in critical condition at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, according to hospital officials.

His wife, Cindy Burnham, 53, a photographer with The Fayetteville Observer, was on the other side of the wall, facing a mirror. She was cut when the glass shattered.

Rick Allen Fayetteville couple injured in explosion

Allen, an avid scuba diver, was walking between his cars at about 11:30 p.m. when he accidentally knocked over a metal tank of oxygen, according to fire officials.

The couple’s house at 1929 Partridge Court suffered major structural damage.

Neighbor and fellow diver Matt Blashfield ran over after he heard the blast.

"I was getting ready to go to bed and I heard an ungodly explosion," Blashfield said.

He saw Allen lying on the ground.

"The first thing he said was, 'Matt, take care of Lucky for me,' which is his dog. But yeah, he looked right at me," Blashfield said. "He had just come from a Carolina Hurricanes hockey game, and his Hurricanes' jersey was all but gone."

Blashfield said despite his injuries, Allen grabbed a garden hose and tried to put out the fire. “He was trying to calm everyone down,” said Blashfield, “Telling everyone not to worry.”

After his years at WRAL News, Allen left the journalism business to pursue his passion, underwater photographer. His website, NautilusProductions.com, says he "has been diving the oceans of the world and shooting video since 1983."

Blashfield sounded sure Tuesday that his friend would return to the work he loves.

"He's very determined," he said. "I don't think he's gonna let something like this get to him."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • steveclaggett2 Jan 5, 2011

    Last line should have read "We wish him and his wife Cindy only the best."

  • steveclaggett2 Jan 5, 2011

    We at the Office of State Archeology at the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources are distressed and concerned about the accident and the condition of Rick Allen. He has been the underwater videographer for the wreck of the presumed Blackbeard flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, since 1998. The Office of State Archaeology’s Underwater Archaeology Branch leads investigation of this shipwreck. He has worked energetically and enthusiastically in conditions that often are unfavorable, uncomfortable, and challenging for diving, filming, or anything else. Rick is totally professional and a great companion for our research crews, visitors, and media representatives. When viewers see underwater footage of the Blackbeard shipwreck site on local TV, or in documentaries by UNC-TV, the BBC, History Channel, Discovery Channel, or others, that footage was shot by Rick Allen. He does a marvelous job of sharing North Carolina history and lore with the world. We wish him and his wife Cindy only t

  • fredolds Jan 5, 2011

    Rick Allen gave me my first two production jobs in the video business. We shot two episodes of the History Channel's "Tactical to Practical". Later, I worked with him through the Museum of History for an exhibit. The man is the best in the business and I want nothing more than a speedy recovery for him and his wife. I'll be praying for you, Rick. -Jerry

  • deton8tor Jan 5, 2011

    photobrucie, speculating on the cause of the accident in no way minimizes everyones concern for the victims recovery and in fact most post have concluded with hopes and prayers for the victims of this tragic event. It is only human for people to try to figure out what may have happened when they learn of an event such as this. That being said as a diver myself of 25 years I have much respect for Rick and Cindy's accomplishments and love of diving. I hope that Rick will have a speedy and full recovery and can return soon to the sea that he loves.

  • photobrucie Jan 4, 2011

    I am disgusted by so many of the posts on here. Rick and Cindy are friends of mine. More people should be concerned about their recovery than telling them what they should have done. These are experienced scuba divers. Most likely the tank was faulty. But nevertheless, have a heart and keep them in your thoughts rather than condemning him with what you would have done in that situation. Just thank your lucky stars you were not.

  • Tug Boat Jan 4, 2011

    my prayers and thoughts are with the family tonight. I hope they both recover 100%. It's bad enough that they lossed their home much less their health.

  • rdmcswai Jan 4, 2011

    Wildcat - I actually agree with you for once! :]But seriously, some of you people really have no hearts. Hope these two have a speedy recovery!

  • frosty Jan 4, 2011

    I am guessing that WRAL just published what they got off the police report and do not have the full details.

    Of course the ubiquitous habit of the press to think all SCUBA tanks are filled with oxygen does not help things.

    Unfortunately, there will probably not be a follow up story with what actually happened. But I do believe that there is more to the accident.

    But best wishes and prayers to the family.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Jan 4, 2011

    He worked for ABC news too! That's nice. Why is it wral won't post this piece of info that they left out?

  • wildcat Jan 4, 2011

    If anyone on this board CANNOT say anything NICE....than don't bother to say NOTHING!