The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

July 31, 2013

Massive explosions rock gas plant

TAVARES, Fla. — After hearing two explosions, maintenance worker Gene Williams looked outside to see a 20-by-20 foot fireball rising above an outdoor storage area at the Blue Rhino propane plant.

Moments later, a forklift worker stumbled into the building with flesh hanging off his hands. His legs and face were burned. Exploding 20-pound canisters of propane began raining down around them during the series of explosions late Monday night.

Bright orange flames would grow as high as 200 feet, fueled by the exploding canisters that shot through the air like fireworks. Houses nearby shook and residents awakened to the sound of “boom after boom after boom.”

No one died, but eight workers were injured, including one worker who was hit by a car on a nearby road while fleeing the explosions.

Officials said the damage could have been significantly worse if three 30,000-pound propane storage containers had caught fire at the plant that refills propane tanks for gas grills and other home uses. About 50 nearby houses were temporarily evacuated, though none was ultimately damaged.

If the large tanks had exploded, “it would have wiped us out,” said Lake County Battalion Chief Chris Croughwell, one of the first responders.

The cause of the explosion was under investigation by federal and state authorities. Williams said it appeared to begin about 100 yards from the loading dock in an area where some of the plant’s 53,000 20-pound propane canisters are stored on plastic pallets.

Tavares Fire Chief Richard Keith said possible causes of the explosion may be either equipment malfunction or human error.

The plant’s two-dozen workers were preparing to go home when the explosions started Monday night, said Williams, who works the third shift. Based on what the forklift operator told him, the explosion was likely caused by a “combination of human error and bad practices, possibly.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • Traps set in New Jersey lake while animal control searches for snake

    JEFFERSON, N.J. — Reports of a 16-foot-long exotic snake — possibly an anaconda — slithering through New Jersey’s largest lake have stoked fears among residents and led to searches and questions about what exactly is in the water....

    July 23, 2014

  • Airlines cancel air traffic after rocket attack

    JERUSALEM — A Hamas rocket exploded Tuesday near Israel’s main airport, prompting a ban on flights from the U.S. and many from Europe and Canada as aviation authorities responded to the shock of seeing a civilian jetliner shot down over ...

    July 23, 2014

  • Remains of victims from Malaysian airliner crash transported by train to Ukrainian controlled territory

    KHARKIV, Ukraine — A train bearing the dead from the downed Malaysian airliner reached Ukrainian government-held territory at long last Tuesday, but the pro-Russian separatists in control of the crash site showed little willingness to ...

    July 23, 2014

  • Contrarian’s case: Why the U.S. could be dragged down by struggling world economies?

    NEW YORK — Just as the U.S. economy is strengthening, other countries are threatening to drag it down....

    July 23, 2014

  • Dueling rulings: Courts split on health law

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s health care law is snarled in another big legal battle, with two federal appeals courts issuing contradictory rulings on a key financing issue within hours of each other Tuesday....

    July 23, 2014

  • Obama nominee pledges to ‘transform’ VA

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs pledged Tuesday to transform the beleaguered agency, saying that “systematic failures” must be addressed....

    July 23, 2014

  • Friend is first convicted in Boston Marathon probe

    BOSTON — The conviction of a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for impeding the investigation into the bombings has his lawyers wondering if anyone else who faces charges connected to the 2013 attack stands a ...

    July 23, 2014

  • Rebels release train with bodies from jet

    HRABOVE, Ukraine — Bowing to international pressure, pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane, four days after it plunged into rebel-held eastern ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Gaza death toll passes 560

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A high-level attempt by the U.N. chief and the U.S. secretary of state to end deadly Israel-Hamas fighting was off to a rough start Monday: Gaza’s Hamas rulers signaled they won’t agree to an unconditional ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Perry sending Guard troops to border

    AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry is deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border over the next month to combat what he said Monday were criminals exploiting a surge of children pouring into the U.S. illegally. ...

    July 22, 2014