A man who died in a fireworks factory explosion on Saturday had already survived a similar blast in the past.

Leonard Camilleri, 64, was killed when Kirkop’s San Ġużepp factory was rocked by a series of explosions at around 7am on Saturday morning.

Rescuers initially said they could not locate Camilleri and were not sure whether or not he was inside the building. But shortly before 11am, the police confirmed that Camilleri was dead.

Camilleri was a keen fireworks enthusiast and also served as the factory’s licensee for several years.

He quit that role some years back and was less involved in the factory’s work in the past years. But his passion drew him back to the fold, and he had recently taken to lending a hand once again.

Camilleri was well aware of the risks working at a fireworks factory entailed: back in February 2012, he was among two men injured when a similar explosion blew ceilings and walls off the Kirkop factory as they prepared fireworks in an adjacent room.

The men noticed something was wrong and ran away just in time, escaping serious injury. 

Times of Malta video from that incident showed Camilleri, wearing a blue jumper and with his right hand bandaged up, declining to comment as he walked away from the scene.

Camilleri walks past reporters following the 2012 blast. Video: Times of Malta

On Saturday, friends of his gathered close to the blast site to commiserate and recall their friend.

Many described him as a kind man of few words.

“He was always at the każin, and friendly with everyone,” recalled Francis Zammit, who said his son was lucky to still be alive as he was meant to be with Camilleri inside the factory earlier on Saturday morning.

“He was called to work at the last moment. It could have been him,” Zammit said. "I told him to light a candle for St Joseph." 

Francis Zammit speaks to reporters at the blast scene. Video: Giulia Magri

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