The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

May 13, 2013

Explosions, fire reported at W.Va. gas plant

POCA — Two workers were injured Monday when highly flammable gas used in welding exploded at a West Virginia industrial site, officials say.

Fire crews were sent at 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 that 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 after 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.

Doug Barker, chief financial officer at nearby Clark Truck Parts, told The Associated Press over the phone that “we felt our building shake like it’s never come close to shaking before from a storm or anything. It was enough to make us run.”

Barker said he and another company official bolted from their offices, and he ran to the road and saw dark smoke in the air to the east. Soon afterward they heard several smaller explosions and saw fire, he said. Barker also saw three or four ambulances speed by and heard a lot of sirens.

Clark Truck Parts is about a half-mile from Airgas, Barker said. He said there are some homes between the two industrial sites.

Dave Castro, manager of the TransWood trucking company about a quarter-mile from Airgas, said he also 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. Airgas, which calls itself the largest U.S. supplier of industrial, medical and special gases, also lists on its website propane, often used in backyard grills; hydrogen; helium; and nitrous oxide, or the “laughing gas” used during certain dental procedures.

Company spokesman Doug Sherman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Jones said the company was sending a hazmat crew from Kentucky. A U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration crew was at the scene.

“It’s a hazardous job they do every day,” Jones said of the workers who handle the gases. “Something went wrong today.”

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 both workers suffered second- and third-degree burns.

Chapman said the cause of the explosion is being investigated and that the blasts and fire were the first problem he knows to be reported at Airgas.

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, according to Hoover’s database on companies. It is the largest distributor of packaged gases in the U.S., with a 25 percent market share and with sales of nearly $5 billion in fiscal 2012.

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • Repairs set for I-77 tunnel

    Some lanes of an Interstate 77 tunnel along the Virginia-West Virginia border where a truck fire occurred are being rerouted for repairs.

    July 29, 2014

  • Veterans crisis center coming to Clarksburg

    The long delays for veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals have prompted The American Legion to plan a short-term crisis center in Clarksburg.

    July 29, 2014

  • Weekend tornado confirmed in West Virginia

    The National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado touched down in Pleasants and Ritchie counties over the weekend.

    July 29, 2014

  • Rahal: Fund VA reform ‘for our veterans’

     On the cusp of Congress’s lengthy summer break, factions sparring over legislation to strengthen health care and funding reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs may have reached a compromise.
    Although final details are still in the works, the top two negotiators, Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., released a joint statement that said they had “made significant progress toward and agreement on legislation to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals.”

    July 29, 2014

  • Attorney general reaches $950,000 settlement with three financial groups

    West Virginia’s attorney general has reached a $950,000 settlement with three companies over allegations of antitrust law violations.

    July 28, 2014

  • Woman convicted in teen’s slaying moved

    A Monongalia County teenager has been transferred to a state prison to complete her sentence for the slaying of another teenager.
    The Lakin Correctional Center near Point Pleasant said Friday Rachel Shoaf has been booked at the Division of Corrections prison. Shoaf turned 18 last month and had been held in a juvenile facility.

    July 26, 2014

  • Board suspends clinic operator’s license

    A West Virginia board Friday suspended the license of the operator of a pain management clinic where investigators found syringes were being reused. It was the second disciplinary action involving the doctor’s license within a decade.

    July 26, 2014

  • Candidates: Leave global warming debate to scientists

    Two West Virginia congressional hopefuls said during their first candidate forum matchup Thursday that the global warming debate is better left to scientists.
    Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Alex Mooney added that other countries should step up in reducing carbon emissions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lawsuit filed over Dirty Girl Mud Run

    A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of a run that was canceled in Charleston in which participants were told they wouldn’t be issued refunds.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVa. man sues GM over wife's death

    A West Virginia man has filed a lawsuit against General Motors Corp., claiming a defective ignition switch in a Chevrolet Cobalt caused a 2006 accident that killed his pregnant wife.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads