2 suffer minor injuries when water explodes on hot metal at Latrobe steel plant
One person was taken to the hospital early Thursday evening after a waterline break during a steel melt at Lehigh Specialty Melting in Latrobe caused a steam explosion.
“Everyone knows you can’t put water onto hot steel, and that’s kind of what happened,” Latrobe Fire Chief John Brasile said. “When the explosion occurred, there was a lot of slag dust in the mill shop and it created a big dust cloud. But there wasn’t any fire, so to speak.”
Two people suffered minor injuries, according to a Westmoreland 911 emergency dispatcher, and one was taken to a local hospital for observation, Brasile said.
Multiple fire companies responded to the factory at 107 Gertrude St. shortly after 6:30 p.m. The fire was knocked down by 7:10 p.m., the dispatcher said.
“They have ventilation in the building,” Brasile said. “Everyone thought it was smoke, but it wasn’t.”
Brasile said it’s not the first time his trucks have responded to a steam explosion.
“When it happens, it can be really loud,” he said. “It’s a sonic boom.”
Ryan Lehman of Latrobe, whose stepfather works at Lehigh Specialty Melt, was in the area and heard the boom.
“I thought it was thunder so I didn’t pay any mind to it at first,” he said. “Then I heard the sirens.”
Lehigh Specialty Melt is a subsidiary of iron and steel company Whemco. LSM specializes in melting carbon and steel ingots, according to its website.