A plant worker was tragically killed, and 3 other people were injured when an explosion went off at a chemical plant late Tuesday night. The incident occurred within the Kanawha County community of Belle shortly after 10:00 p.m. at Optima Chemical, a tenant on the Chemours property.
Among the injured, another plant worker was hurt, and one person was hit by debris. No further details have been given about the victims or the extent of their injuries.
According to the report, Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper said the blast was likely caused by chlorinated dry bleach and methanol. Methanol may have triggered the explosion and acted as an accelerant for the flames.
People who lived in the community reported their houses shook. The explosion prompted authorities to impose a shelter-in-place order for 2 miles around the plant. A nearby road was closed before firefighters were able to extinguish the flames and allow people to move around.
The blaze was finally extinguished just before midnight, Belle Mayor David Fletcher, who is also a volunteer firefighter. “Right now, we feel like everything is in pretty good shape,” he told the TV station. The shelter-in-place order was lifted hours after the explosion early Wednesday morning.
Still, it was a tough day, according to The Associated Press, Kanawha County Manager Jennifer Herrald said:
“We lost a law enforcement officer, and they laid her to rest, our community was already hurting over that event, and then to the end the day with an explosion at the chemical plant when our first responders were already grieving and exhausted from dealing with a funeral – it was a hard situation to go through this evening.”
According to The New York Times, the explosion occurred in a manufacturing area owned by Optima Chemical, which operates in a complex in Belle owned by Chemours. Optima Chemical said in its statement:
“Preliminary information indicates that a 1,200-gallon metal dryer became over-pressurized during a chemical product drying operation. The material in the dryer was a compound used for sanitization. Optima is cooperating fully with local, state, and federal officials on continuing investigation of this incident.”
Thom Sueta, a Chemours spokesman, said in an email on Wednesday that all Chemours employees were safe and accounted for last night, according to The New York Times.
It added, “The safety of site employees, emergency responders, and the community has been our first priority throughout the incident, so we waited until daylight to begin a thorough site damage assessment.”
Our experienced, dedicated chemical plant explosion lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP regularly handle cases including catastrophic injuries relating to fires and explosions throughout the United States with a focus in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or tragically killed by the explosion caused by Optima Chemical at the Chemours plant in Belle, West Virginia, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.
Morrow & Sheppard LLP will follow up with any updates to the investigation as information becomes available.