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AP Top News - 05/25/2000 La. Ammonia Plant Blast Kills One

DONALDSONVILLE, La. (AP) -- An explosion and fire ripped through an ammonia processing unit at a fertilizer plant, killing one worker and injuring 11 others, five critically.

The blast Wednesday night could be felt for miles. It happened as workers cleaned an empty mixing tank at CF Industries, about 55 miles west of New Orleans in the industrial corridor along the Mississippi River.

The fire was brought under control in about 20 minutes and there were no chemical leaks, said Lt. Mike Edmonson, a state police spokesman. The plant, which makes nitrogen-based fertilizer, remained in operation except for the area involved in the explosion.

The name of the worker who died was not immediately released.

A spokeswoman for Baton Rouge General Hospital said 11 people were injured, including two in critical condition and one in serious condition at the facility's burn unit. Three others were in critical condition at Riverview Medical Center in Gonzales.

''It will obviously be some time before we know what happened, but our thoughts and prayers right now go out to the workers and their families that are involved,'' said Louis Frey, an operations manager for Long Grove, Ill.-based CF Industries.

There were 60 workers at the plant at the time of the explosion and as many as 20 near the blast site, said Doug Cain, a state police spokesman.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately known. The force of the blast, along with the fire, made it difficult to determine the exact point of explosion, Cain said.

The plant, a sprawling facility that covers more than 200 acres, is described as one of the largest nitrogen fertilizer complexes in the world.

CF Industries cited National Safety Council figures in 1999 that showed the plant with five million safe work hours, ranking it first in the nation and third in the world among similar facilities.

-- Rachel Gibson (, May 25, 2000



Thursday May 25 4:18 PM ET

One Killed, 10 Hurt in Louisiana Plant Explosion

DONALDSONVILLE, La. (Reuters) - One man died and 10 were injured, some critically, when an explosion and fire ripped through one section of a massive fertilizer plant during routine maintenance Thursday, authorities said.

The explosion occurred in the No. 3 ammonia unit of CF Industries ammonia and nitrogen fertilizer plant, State Police spokesman Doug Cain told Reuters. The other units in the plant are still operating, he said.

``Several contract and CF employees were doing routine maintenance when the unit exploded, then caught fire,'' Cain said. ``The fire was out in 20 minutes and there was no environmental impact outside the plant, though the explosion was heard and felt for miles.''

Richard Escobedo of Pasedena, Texas, a 40-year-old employee of contractor Catalyst Process Specialists Inc., died in the blast, Cain said. Five other Catalyst employees were injured, along with four CF Industries workers and one from Turner Industries of Baton Rouge.

Eight of the injured were in the Baton Rouge General Hospital Burn Unit, one with a broken arm and minor burns was in a general care room, while one injured man was treated and released, Cain said.

CF Operations Manager Louis Frey said the cause of the blast was being investigated investigation.

CF Industries has headquarters in Long Grove, Illinois. It is an interregional agricultural cooperative that manufactures and markets fertilizers to its members in 48 states and two Canadian provinces.

-- Rachel Gibson (, May 25, 2000.


Late notification of fatal explosion costs plant $25,000 The Associated Press 8/15/00 5:54 PM

DONALDSONVILLE, La. (AP) -- CF Industries must pay $25,000 for taking two hours to tell state police about a fatal explosion at its fertilizer plant.

Louis Frey, operations manager at the Donaldsonville plant, said CF Industries will ask state police to reconsider the fine.

The explosion did not release any hazardous materials, he said.

"We think there's possibly some confusion here," he said Monday. "We just need to clear it up."

The blast late May 24 killed three people -- one died immediately and two in June -- and seriously injured eight others. Plant officials did not notify state police until about 1:30 a.m. May 25.

Investigators are still trying to find out why a tank that separates moisture from nitrogen and hydrogen gas exploded while workers replaced the drying agent on two nearby vessels.

About 1,500 pounds of hydrogen burned in the explosion, State Police spokesman Sgt. William Davis said Monday.

Davis said state law does not say how many minutes or hours plant officials have to notify state police about explosions.

"It depends on exactly what's going on," he said. "But two hours is excessive."

Davis said State Police have finished their investigation, although the agency is helping the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration conduct a separate probe.

"This thing was real technical; it goes beyond our capabilities," Davis said. "OSHA has the ways and means and the time to do this." free/getstory_ssf.cgi?n1727_BC_LA--ExplosionFine&&news&newsflash- louisiana

-- Doris (, August 15, 2000.

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