YouTube Producers Milk Fatal Toronto Explosion For Fun And Profit

The fiery mushroom cloud that rose over downtown Toronto last week must have been pretty scary to everyone who saw it. The explosion of a propane storage facility killed two people and forced 12,000 people to evacuate.

The conflagration also made a big impact in the world of Web video: Hundreds of witnesses recorded what they saw and uploaded the scene to YouTube. As of yesterday, a search of “Toronto propane explosion” on YouTube yielded 310 results.

But at least two of those videos — which happen to be some of site’s most popular clips — aren’t what they purport to be.

It just so happens that some of YouTube’s biggest stars were in town for the 888 YouTube Gathering. Two of them, sxephil, kevjumba, thought it would be funny to make bogus, “Cloverfield“-style clips of the disaster — using footage shot by someone who really witnessed it, Toronto resident Saejinoh.

The two videos, which are supposed to appear as if they were made by people who saw the explosions from a hotel balcony, are sort of clever. They’ve racked up more than 850,000 views in a little more than a week, and they give you a sense of why sxephil and kevjumba are some of YouTube’s most-followed video producers. But they also makes us feel at least a little bit squeamish, given the very real impact of the disaster.

Since sxephil and kevjumba are YouTube partners, they’re making money from the videos, as is YouTube. How much? At least a few thousand dollars apiece, given that YouTube sells AdSense for video at about $15 per thousand impressions, and hands over about half of that to the video creator. As of Tuesday, YouTube was running ads for Revlon and Ecko on the videos.

Now kevjumba, who says he just graduated from high school, appears to be having second thoughts about this one. He added to the description of his video:

I want to thank Saejinoh for the footage, the video was not meant to trick you into thinking we recorded this as the gas tank exploded, the purpose was to create a Cloverfield-style video from two viewpoints..

No word yet from Sxephil.

All three versions, two fake and one real, posted below.

Toronto Propane Explosion from My Angle (kevjumba): 508,300 views

Toronto Propane Explosion Caught On Tape (sXePhil’s Angle): 351,094 views

Original video of the explosion


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