These are the first pictures of the parishioner father-of-four and priest who died after a suspected gas blast yesterday ripped through a Catholic Church-owned building in Madrid.
Local churchgoer David Munoz Santos, 35, was killed instantly when the 3pm explosion destroyed the upper floors of the building where he was working to fix a faulty boiler and left the area looking like a war zone.
David, an electrician, had volunteered to help out when he learned from friends the boiler was causing problems, was one of three people whose lives the explosion initially claimed.
But in the early hours of this morning the death toll rose to four as it emerged a priest who had been helping David, and was the most seriously injured of the 11 people hurt, had passed away in hospital.
He has been named as Ruben Perez Ayala. He died just before 1.45am this morning in Madrid’s Virgen de la Paz Hospital as a result of the internal injuries he had suffered in the blast.
The 36-year-old had been ordained as a priest by Carlos Osorio, the Archbishop of Madrid, last June.
He is understood to have suffered several broken bones including a shattered pelvis and medics were trying to stabilise him ahead of an operation.
He had initially been described as missing, but managed to get out of the blast building.
Another priest living on one of its upper floors, who is thought to have been helping the two dead men with the boiler, cheated death by leaving them moments before the explosion. He was trapped on the fifth floor before being rescued.
The other two people killed are two passers-by, one a woman aged 85 and another a 53-year-old man.
Photos of David with his family yesterday as friends and acquaintances described him as someone who was ‘always smiling.’
The Madrid Metro maintenance worker was well known in the Madrid neighbourhood of La Latina where the explosion occurred, at number 98 in Toledo Street.
The city centre street connects La Latina with with the Puerta de Toledo which is a famous free-standing 19th century gate in Madrid comprising three archways.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid confirmed before news of Ruben Perez Ayala’s death in hospital emerged: ‘A priest is serious and the dead include David Santos Munoz, a 35-year-old electrician, father of four and parishioner who had gone to help with the boiler.’
A friend who asked not to be named was quoted as saying: ‘David was a lovely bloke. He was always smiling.’
Wellwishers offered their condolences on social media.
Eugenia Pardo Martin said: ‘My sincere condolences to his wife, children, other loved ones and friends. Rest in peace.’
Lydia Mendez added: ‘How sad for those poor little children who have lost their father, such a young man.’
The devastation the explosion caused was laid bare in a police video shot from a helicopter.
The upper floors of the five-storey building, next to a school and OAP home and opposite a hotel, are due to be demolished with controlled explosions today to avert the risk of its collapse.
Madrid’s mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida said it was a ‘miracle’ the casualty toll hadn’t been higher.
Pupils at the school adjoining the blast building were not in the playground at the time of the explosion because of the snow and ice still covering it after devastating Storm Filomena which caused chaos in Spain earlier this month.
Mr Martinez-Almeida, speaking from the scene before a planned entry into the blast building by police with sniffer dogs, said before the injury toll rose from seven to 11: ‘We thought this year couldn’t get any worse and then this happened.
‘Three people are dead, seven injured and one is missing.
‘We can’t rule out more deaths. But it could have been far worse, because the building is right next to a school and a retirement home.’
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez tweeted: ‘Unfortunately we have to regret the death of several people.
‘I have just spoken to Madrid’s mayor to express my support and solidarity.
‘Our condolences and affection to the families of those who have died and been injured.’