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Fundraiser launched for police injured in Middle Park gas explosion

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Nino Bucci and Caroline Zielinski

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Middle Park officers' 'thank you' for support

Brother of one of the women police officers injured in last weekend's explosion speaks out on behalf of all the officers and their families.

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The families of three police who suffered horrific burns in an explosion last week say they have become close while caring for their loved ones in hospital.

Matthew Quick, the brother of First Constable Emma Quick, who was injured along with Sergeant Tony Scully and Constable Varli Blake, spoke on behalf of the families on Friday.

Sergeant Scully, First Constable Quick and Constable Blake, together with firefighters, were responding to calls that a man was threatening suicide at a unit in Hambleton Street, Middle Park last week.

Tony Scully

Tony Scully

Moments after they  entered the flat, an explosion occurred, leaving one of the women with extensive burns to her face and upper body. The other constable, the senior sergeant and two firefighters also suffered injuries.

All three had surgery. A spokeswoman for The Alfred hospital said First Constable Quick and Constable Blake remained in a serious but stable condition and Sergeant Scully was in a stable condition.

Mr Quick said from The Alfred that the families of all three victims had spent a lot of time together between caring to their loved ones.

Emma Quick

Emma Quick

"The three families are here together and have come to know each other really well over the last week through horrible, unfortunate circumstances," he said.

He said the families wished to thank the other emergency services workers and passers-by who helped the officers.

"Our relatives, this is  their job, they do it and they know the risks ... but it could happen to you or me.

Varli Blake

Varli Blake

"Through a horrible, horrible tragedy ... I think from it we’ve all seen the best of people and the best of human nature.

"People responded on instinct ... in the very worst of times you do see the very best of people."

Mr Quick said his sister, an aunt to his two girls, was a fighter and was doing as well as expected but had a long road ahead of her.

Earlier on Friday, colleagues of the officers started a recovery fundraiser to help them back on their feet and Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said detectives would soon reveal what ignited the explosion.

The man involved is also in a stable condition, and is under police guard in the burns unit of The Alfred, but Mr Lay said he was yet to be interviewed by police.

He expected more details of the explosion to be revealed as early as Saturday, but he did not wish to pre-empt the arson squad investigation. He said investigators still believed the blaze had started when gas that had leaked from an LPG canister as part of a suicide attempt was accidentally ignited.

"Things are starting to develop in relation to what might have happened at the time," Mr Lay said.

"It’s still very early days in the investigation ... but it is true to say the investigation is progressing.

"I would expect in the very near future we’ll have some clarity around (what had caused the explosion)."

Mr Lay, who joined Police Association secretary Greg Davies and BankVic chairman John Mugavin in announcing the Tony, Emma and Varli Recovery Fund, said the officers had life-changing injuries that would take many years of recovery.

"They’re enormously courageous, they’re facing their challenges with an enormous amount of determination and I feel nothing but pride about being their ... chief commissioner," Mr Lay said.

"They are fighters and they know they’ve got a fight ahead of them.

"Not only are these people going to need the support of Victoria Police and the Police Association, they’re going to need the support of the wider community."

He said that while the  trio were improving, they and their families knew there was a long  way to go.

"These three members in one sense were very, very lucky. Greg and I were talking on the night of the incident and we had grave concerns for all three.

"It’s had a huge impact on Victoria Police, a huge impact on the community, but when you actually speak to the families you get a sense of the enormous impact it’s had on them."

Senior Sergeant Davies said it had been about 40 years since an association secretary and chief commissioner had  appeared at a joint press conference, illustrating the seriousness of the incident and importance of supporting the officers.

"They’ve got a lifelong fight ahead of them and it’s not just going to be a very difficult one it’s going to be an expensive one," Senior Sergeant Davies said.

"Hopefully what we’ve done this morning along with BankVic will ease that part of the burden.

"The people who are very quick to criticise the police for everything and anything they do should have a look at their attitude because they’re very lucky people like this are out there protecting the community.

"Nobody deserves to go to work and have this happen to them, when they’re only trying to help a member of the public."

Acting Premier Peter Ryan said he met the families of the three officers on Thursday.

He said the officers’ recoveries would be a long-term issue.

"It was a terrible event," he told ABC Radio.

"Heroes come in many forms and they were out and about on this occasion."

Two firefighters injured in the incident have been released from hospital.

The Police Association and Victoria Police have contributed $10,000 each to the fund, while BankVic had made a "substantial contribution", Mr Mugavin said.

The public  can donate by making bank transfers to:

Account Name: The Tony, Emma & Varli Recovery Fund
BSB: 704 230
Account Number: 100 484 824

Alternatively, cheques made to The Tony, Emma & Varli Recovery Fund can be posted to BankVic, 121 Cardigan Street, Carlton, 3053.

For help or information visit beyondblue.org.au, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 131 114.

With AAP

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