Early on the morning of 16 September 1991, terrorists from ETA aimed a driverless vehicle at the Civil Guard Barracks in Muchamiel, a town about eight kilometres from Alicante, with a population of 10,000. The vehicle, which was loaded with explosives, was left in gear, with an anti-theft lock on the steering wheel to keep it straight. Due to an error in the mechanism, the vehicle crashed instead into a branch office of the Bank of Valencia, on the other side of the road. Not suspecting that it was a car bomb, the civil guard called up the local tow truck, driven by Francisco Cebrián. He towed the car to the depot, about 300 metres away, passing the El Salvador School on the way, whose 400 pupils had just begun classes.
At around 9.40 am, Cebrián parked the vehicle and was just getting out of the truck, when the device exploded. Francisco Cebrián and two local police officers who were supervising the operation, José Luis Jiménez Vargas (28) and Víctor Manuel Puertas Viera (21), were killed instantly Four other people were severely injured and another thirty suffered minor injuries. According to press reports, ETA had been trying to cause another massacre similar to the one perpetrated at the barracks in Vic in the same year or the one in Zaragoza in 1987.
On joining the Civil Guard, Francisco Cebrián Cabezas had been posted to the barracks in San Juan, Alicante, where he met his future wife and mother of his four children. He later left the force to set up his own company. He drove a tow-truck that he rented from the town council of Muchamiel.