Schenectady County

Car explosion kills Schenectady man; cause still under investigation

Kooldeep Premraj was waiting for his wife to return home from work when he heard an alarm sounding f

Kooldeep Premraj was waiting for his wife to return home from work when he heard an alarm sounding from his son’s 2002 BMW 530i shortly after midnight last Tuesday.

When the 53-year-old Guyanese man went to inspect the vehicle parked behind his George Street residence, a fireball ripped through its interior, gravely burning him on the arms, chest and face. Premraj died from his injures while hospitalized at the Westchester Medical Center Saturday morning, leaving both his mourning family and investigators wondering exactly what touched off the lethal blast.

“It’s still under investigation,” Schenectady Police Det. Kevin Green said Monday. “We still don’t know if the car was an arson.”

The fire was first called in around 12:30 a.m., when it was reported as an explosion. Nigel Premraj, the deceased man’s son, said his father was awakened by the alarm and saw a fire burning on one of the seats.

The frantic man tried to douse the flames with a garden hose, but not before the vehicle burst into flames. Nigel Premraj said he rushed to help his father move cars away from the fire. His father already had moved a nearby truck away from the flames and was attempting to move another when he started feeling the effects of his burns.

Moments later, Nigel Premraj said his father began wheezing. That’s when he noticed shards of burning glass stuck to his father’s face and the man’s badly scalded arms.

“He said ‘I got burned, I got burned,’  ” the son recalled.

Firefighters were quick to arrive and had the blaze under control in a matter of minutes, according to family members. They say Premraj sustained second- and third-degree burns from the blast, but seemed to be recovering until Friday, when his condition took a turn for the worse.

“That’s the hard part,” his son said. “We don’t even know [why he died].”

Kooldeep Premraj immigrated to the United States in 1996 and took up residence in the New York City borough of Queens. He moved to Schenectady eight years ago in part to keep his family safe, his son said.

Premraj worked for Northland Transportation, a Scotia-based bus company. His son said he was proud of his family and was excited to become a grandfather.

The Premraj family was planning to host a baby shower for Nigel’s unborn child on Saturday. Instead, they started making funeral arrangements.

The ruined BMW is pushed to the rear of the property and covered with a tarp so that Premraj’s grieving widow doesn’t need to see the charred hulk. Most of the car’s windows are blasted out and its interior is charred beyond recognition — both the steering wheel and dashboard were nearly consumed by the fire.

A fire official investigating the blaze did not return a call for comment Monday evening. Green said the police will await the results of the fire investigation and a determination on Premraj’s cause of death before deciding whether to launch an arson or homicide investigation.

Scores of family members and friends were at the Premraj residence Monday to pay respects to the family. Funeral services for Premraj are scheduled for Wednesday at Light’s Funeral Home on State Street.

Vick Singh, the man’s son-in-law, said police and fire investigators removed evidence from the scene. He said the family has suspicions about how the fire started but doesn’t want to jump to conclusions before the investigation runs its course.

“We just don’t know,” he said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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