Worker Killed in FL Gas Blast

Friday, September 2, 2016 @ 04:09 PM gHale


One worker died in a blast at an Airgas plant in Cantonment, FL, Sunday.

The nitrous oxide tanks were at the center of the deadly explosion, officials said.

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Airgas said one of their employees died in the blast, but they have not released his name. State investigators said crews found the employee 50 to 75 feet from where they believe the explosion occurred.

The blast occurred at 12:15 p.m. Sunday at the loading bay of the Airgas plant, next to the Ascend Performance Materials site.

Officials found the body around 6:30 p.m., said Capt. Kevin Fiedor of the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations. He said search crews were sent in to look for a male employee that was unaccounted for after the explosion.

Airgas supplies gases, welding and safety products.

A preliminary finding suggest it was an accident, as they have found no signs of foul play.

Investigators said there were two nitrous oxide storage tanks and a larger holding tank in the loading bay. Nitrous oxide is often used by dentists during procedures. It also sees use in car racing. Experts said nitrous oxide can cause an explosion under certain conditions.

Investigators haven’t said what caused the initial nitrous tank to explode, but when it did, the other two followed.

According to investigators on the scene, the area looks like “a mini war zone.” They added, “nitrous oxide was leaking in a 500-feet-by-500-feet area, but evaporated before it left the plant.”

The state has turned the investigation over to Airgas.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is also investigating the case.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of a member of our Airgas family. Our sincere condolences and thoughts are with the family, friends, and colleagues of this associate,” said an Airgas spokesperson.

“At this time there are no off-site impacts and area residents do not need to take any precautionary measures. Airgas’ top priority is the safety of our associates, customers, and the communities in which we operate,” the spokesman said.