Moments later he heard a loud boom.

Marcelino, 49, said he looked over and saw his friends' blue tent collapse into in a heap.

The couple who live in it -- a man and a woman -- were still inside.

Witnesses later described the horrific scene that followed Tuesday night as the couple, who were critically burned, were rushed to a neighboring home for help before being taken to the hospital.

The explosion rocked the small camp, under the Interstate 238 overpass beside railroad tracks off Hesperian Boulevard near Springlake Drive.

The chaos broke out about 9:30 p.m. and appears to have been sparked by the couple using Butane to make hash oil, which often is used to synthesize marijuana, said Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson said. He said butane fumes likely were unable to escape the tent.

After the explosion, Marcelino ran over the couple's tent and could see from their shadows, that "they were lying on their backs." "It was like something was on top of them preventing them from getting up," he recalled Wednesday morning as he stood outside what was left of the tent, tires, blankets and cardboard strewn about.

"The tent was on fire. They were trapped," he said. "I bent down to open the zipper but it was jammed," he said.

Marcelino acted quickly, grabbing a knife to slit the tent from top to bottom. Then he grabbed the couple and dragged them outside.

They had a sticky substance on their face and hands that looked like oil, he said, and the skin on their faces and arms was peeling off.


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Marcelino said he helped the pair to their feet and nudged them forward along the railroad tracks to a small four-unit apartment building about a football field's length away.

"I realized that if they collapsed, I wouldn't be able to drag them all the way there," he said pointing down the tracks, surrounded by large rocks and dirt. "That's when she started screaming. The pain set in." When they made it to the apartment building they banged on the door of Cynthia Silva and Marcelino told her to call 911.

"This lady came in, and she had skin hanging off her face and her arms," Silva said Tuesday night. "It looked bad. She was screaming, 'Something exploded, something exploded!'"

Silva's daughter Brittney, 18, said the woman got into the tub, turned on the water, then started screaming even more. The man used an outside garden hose to wash off.

Emergency crews and the Sheriff's Office hazardous materials team responded and the injured couple were transported to a local hospital in critical condition.

A third unidentified person who lived in Silva's home went to a hospital after complaining of pain in her foot after she believed she may have come into contact with the substance but that person checked out fine, Nelson said.

The couple are boyfriend and girlfriend, Marcelino said, go by Louie and Angie and have lived at the camp for about eight months with about half-dozen other people. Police did not release their full names.

"It was crazy. Just before the blast we talking about what to do for dinner because we were out of food," Marcelino said as he stood next to yellow, crime-scene tape surveying the aftermath from the blast. "They were only in there for a little bit."

Staff writer Rick Hurd contributed to this report. Follow Natalie Neysa Alund at Twitter.com/nataliealund. Follow Eric Kurhi at Twitter.com/erickurhi.