Searchers Locate Bodies of 2nd and 3rd Victims in Virginia Plant Explosion: Natural Gas Buildup Reportedgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Searchers Locate Bodies of 2nd and 3rd Victims in Plant Explosion; Damage: $30 to $50 MillionRadford, VA, United States
Search dogs Monday located the bodies of two women under mounds of debris in an auto parts factory where an explosion also killed a co-worker.
The blast at New River Castings on Sunday night threw clouds of black soot over a wide area and left the building still smoldering the next day.
``There's mass destruction, a hole the size of a football field in the center of the plant,'' Fire Chief Lee Simpkins said. He estimated damage at $30 million.
Rescuers and search dogs worked their way through charred, twisted metal in the factory. The dogs discovered that the women were buried under ``a tremendous amount of debris'' so much that it will take days to get to them, said Dan Crumrine, a dog handler.
``Our priority is to find and remove these loved ones,'' Simpkins said. ``This is going to be a long process, it's not going to be done overnight.''
Company officials and fire officials said they didn't know the cause of the explosion. Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on the scene. Radford is about 160 miles west of Richmond.
Firefighters and maintenance workers found the body of Curtis Grooms, 29, near the core of the explosion. The missing women were identified as Karen Anderson Hamilton, 35, and Debbie Sheppard, 37.
----- Information Added: Monday, March 6, 2000 - 2:53 PM ----- Anxious relatives waited outside today as rescuers searched for two workers missing after an explosion tore apart an industrial plant and killed at least one employee. Six workers were hospitalized.
Families of the two missing women waited outside the plant today as dogs from Fairfax County's search and rescue team were being brought in to search the rubble.
The last hot spot of flames was extinguished this morning. The cause of the explosion was under investigation, but there were reports of a natural gas buildup. Simpkins estimated damage at $30 million to $50 million. Witnesses said at least one wall at the main plant was destroyed.
About 100 workers were in the plant at the time of the 9:30 p.m. blast, Simpkins said. An unknown number were treated for smoke inhalation and minor cuts and bruises at an ambulance station set up outside the plant.
The worker found dead was identified as Curtis Grooms, 29. Marie Hamilton said her daughter-in-law, Karen Anderson Hamilton, 35, was one of the missing workers.
``I'm just hoping and praying that she's in a cubbyhole somewhere and all right,'' said Hamilton.
She said her son, Douglas, was working at the plant when the explosion happened but was uninjured. The couple had been married just six months.
``I'm hoping and praying ... that things will be all right, but I'm afraid not,'' she said.
At one point, Karen Hamilton's father, Edward Anderson, broke through a barrier and ran toward the building, saying, ``If they're not going to look for my kid, I'm going myself.'' Authorities restrained him.
Roy Davis said his girlfriend, Debbie Sheppard, 37, was the other missing woman.
The Roanoke Times quoted an unidentified worker as saying that employees had been told of a natural gas buildup in the basement. Representatives of United Cities Gas Co. were at the scene.
Witnesses said flames rose 20 feet above the plant roof. ``All of a sudden I saw a big orange ball of fire, and everything was pitch black,'' plant worker Scott Hetherington told the newspaper.
The explosion ``sounded like something was coming through the roof of my house,'' said Sherri Birkelbach, who lives about three blocks away.
Seven workers were hospitalized but one was released this morning. Two were in serious but stable condition and the conditions of the others weren't available. Others were treated for smoke inhalation and minor cuts and bruises.
New River Castings and a related parts manufacturer, Lynchburg Foundry, are owned by Troy, Mich.-based Intermet Corp., which employs about 1,000 people in Radford, a town about 30 miles west of Roanoke. The two plants make transmissions and other parts for the auto industry.
----- Information Added: Monday, March 6, 2000 - 9:02 AM ----- A man was dead, two women were missing and presumed dead and six people hospitalized following an industrial plant explosion that threw clouds of black soot over a wide area and left the building still smoldering early today.
``There's a lot of twisted metal everywhere you look,'' Fire Chief Lee Simpkins said of the scene following Sunday night's explosion at New River Castings, an automobile parts manufacturing plant. He estimated damage at $30 million to $50 million.
The cause of the explosion was under investigation. Firefighters worked overnight to put out one remaining hot spot being fueled by residue dripping from a tank near the location of the explosion, Simpkins said. The area is where the two missing women are believed to be, and the search will resume once that fire is extinguished, he said.
``It's in an area that I do not think is safe to get to'' until the fire is out, he said.
Firefighters and maintenance workers found the dead worker near the core of the explosion, Simpkins said.
About 100 workers were in the plant at the time of the 9:30 p.m. blast, the chief said. An unknown number of workers were treated for smoke inhalation and minor cuts and bruises at an ambulance station set up outside the plant.
The families of the missing women waited today outside the plant as dogs from Fairfax County's search and rescue team were brought in to search the rubble.
Marie Hamilton said her daughter-in-law, Karen Anderson Hamilton, of Christiansburg, was one of the missing workers.
``I'm just hoping and praying that she's in a cubbyhole somewhere, and all right,'' said Hamilton, who drove to the plant from her home in Giles County.
Hamilton said her son, Douglas, was working on a forklift when the explosion occurred, but was uninjured. He unsuccessfully tried to find his wife, and planned to wait outside the plant until she is found, Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the couple have been married six months as of Saturday and had just purchased a new house.
``I'm hoping and praying ... that things will be all right, but I'm afraid not,'' she said.
Two of the hospitalized workers were flown to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. They are both in serious but stable condition, a hospital official said today.
Officials did not know the conditions of the other hospitalized workers but said they remained in Radford or other nearby facilities.
A worker who asked not to be identified told The Roanoke Times that employees were told about a natural gas buildup in the basement of the plant. Representatives of United Cities Gas Co., a natural gas supplier, were on the scene.
Witnesses said a wall of the plant's main building was destroyed, and flames shot as much as 20 feet above the building's roof.
``All of a sudden I saw a big orange ball of fire, and everything was pitch black,'' plant worker Scott Hetherington told the newspaper.
``Boom, lights went out and you found your way out anyway you could,'' said Allen Bratton, a worker who just started at the plant a week ago.
Tony Hicks works in the part of the building where the explosion occurred. He watched the rescue efforts from a video store across from the plant and waited for word about his missing coworker.
Hicks, who lives a few blocks from the plant, was at home when he felt the blast.
``It felt like the whole side of my house had sunk in,'' said Hicks, who had been scheduled to work an hour after the explosion. Hicks ran to the plant after the blast and remained outside the plant through the night.
New River Castings and a related parts manufacturer, Lynchburg Foundry, are owned by Troy, Mich.-based Intermet Corp., which employes about 1,000 people in Radford. The two plants, which make transmission and other iron parts for the auto industry, cover several blocks.
In recent months, the plants have come under scrutiny from state environmental officials because of emissions of black dust. Nearby residents have complained that the dust covers their homes and cars
-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), March 07, 2000
Thursday, March 09, 2000
Women missing in Radford plant explosion may be entombed in sludge
Search for victims zeros in on basement
It is "very unlikely there are any survivors with the extent of the damage," said Robert Graham, supervisor with the ATF. By CHRISTOPHER CALNAN
THE ROANOKE TIMES RADFORD -- ~snip~.... The cause of the blast is still undetermined. However, ATF officials have said they're investigating the possibility of a gas leak. Workers have said the building was evacuated two days before the explosion for a leak of "T-Gas."
T-Gas, the common name of ethylene oxide, was used in the plant's core department to harden sand used in molds. The colorless gas has an ether-like odor and is highly flammable.
The missing women, Sheppard and Hamilton, both worked in the core department.
Meanwhile, officials at the United Steelworkers of America gave the ATF dozens of grievances they've filed against the company during the last four years.
Union officials declined to reveal the exact number of grievances, but said it was less than 100.
The New River Current, Virginia
-- Lee Maloney (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2000.