VA--Update...Investigators Say Gas Leak Caused Radford Plant Explosion : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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March 13, 2000

Investigators say gas leak caused Radford plant explosion

Associated Press Copyright 2000, Landmark Communications Inc.

RADFORD, Va. -- Investigators have determined that a gas leak caused the explosion at the New River Castings plant.

Officials said Saturday the explosion was the result of a leak of either natural gas or another gas used at the foundry. The March 5 explosion killed three workers and sent six others to the hospital.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms National Response Team, a unit that investigated the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings, is going home, having concluded the explosion was accidental.

Investigators said it occurred in the basement of the foundry's main building beneath the core department, where two of the workers who were killed, Karen Anderson Hamilton of Christiansburg and Debbie Sheppard of Riner, worked. Curtis Grooms of Floyd County worked in the adjacent finishing area.

Besides natural gas, the possible culprit is dimethylethylamine, also called DMEA. It is used to harden sand in molds where cast-iron auto parts are made.

Sgt. Kenny Ford of the Radford Police Department said investigators are looking into possible regulatory violations at the plant, owned by Troy, Mich.-based Intermet Corp.

Some workers and union officials said after the blast that a department at the plant was evacuated two days before the explosion because of a gas leak.

-- (, March 13, 2000

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