Explosions, fire injure 2 at W.Va. gas plant
POCA, W.Va. — Two workers were injured on Monday when highly flammable gas used in welding exploded at a West Virginia industrial site, officials say.
Fire crews were sent about 3:20 p.m. to Airgas, a distributor of specialty gases in Poca, outside of Charleston. Putnam County Emergency Management Director Frank Chapman said the explosion involved about 50 tanks of acetylene that were at Airgas waiting to be refilled. What caused the tanks to explode wasn't known.
Chad Jones, a firefighter with the Bancroft Volunteer Fire Department, said four cylinders continued to burn Monday evening and crews were letting them “burn out.” They were dousing other tanks with water to keep them from exploding, said Jones, whose station was one of several to respond to the scene.
The tanks were being stored in a bay behind the facility. Jones said that once the first tank exploded, “it was like a chain reaction,” with fireballs shooting 100 to 150 feet in the air. A nearby business evacuated, and windows were shattered in the back of the Airgas plant, Jones said.
Dave Castro, manager of the Trans-Wood trucking company about a quarter-mile from Airgas, said he felt his building shake.
“It felt like a truck ran into the building,” he said.
He said he drove toward Airgas to check on his wife, who works at another company nearby, and could see the back of the plant on fire. He said the burning area was about the size of a house, and every 15 seconds or so, a black ball of smoke would rise from a tank or drum “and explode like a firework.”
Acetylene is used in welding canisters.
Company spokesman Doug Sherman said the explosions occurred in a concrete-enclosed storage area outside the main plant. He said the injuries were not life-threatening, and the fire had been extinguished.
Jones said the company was sending a hazmat crew from Kentucky. An Occupational Safety and Health Administration crew was at the scene.
Chapman said the explosion involved residue of the gas left in the tanks. He said the blast would have been much worse if the tanks were filled. He said the injured workers suffered second- and third-degree burns.
Chapman said that the cause of the explosion is being investigated.
The injured workers were taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital for treatment. A hospital official did not know their conditions.
Airgas Inc. is based in Radnor, Pa., and has more than 15,000 employees at 1,110 locations including retail stores, gas fill plants and distribution centers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Man arrested in deputy’s ambush
- Quarter-million without power as Pacific Northwest jolted by wind
- Indians, Asians lead Mexicans among immigrants in U.S.
- Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Fischer open to interest rate hike
- Racist motive hushed, right says
- Will Trump run as independent? He says decision will be made soon
- TSA agent accused of sex abuse at LaGuardia Airport
- Long Island college student arrested for trying to record police, civil liberties experts say
- Hope for prisoner’s release imbues rally
- Katrina anniversary blends mourning, joy at recovery
- Landfill Atari game cartridges net $100K