Chem Plant Blast Leaves 1 Dead

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 @ 08:02 AM gHale

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a deadly fire and explosion at a chemical plant in La Porte, TX Saturday.

The blast rocked the southeastern Texas city of La Porte Saturday just before 8 a.m.

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The blast blew apart a building at the Air Liquide cylinder plant leaving a smoking hole in the ground.

The blast, which occurred in a metal building on the site, triggered a fire that filled the area with heavy smoke. About 15 to 20 employees were believed to be on site at the time, company spokesman Michael Rosen said.

One employee was taken immediately by helicopter to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said La Porte Police Sgt. John Krueger. Officials said the man sustained serious injuries but was able to speak to investigators later in the day.

Around 12 hours after the blast, investigators pulled Javier Ortiz, 30, an Air Liquide technician, from the debris.

Rescue workers brought in heavy equipment and searched for hours before recovering the body. “There’s been a lot of structural collapse inside so we’ve got a lot of safety issues,” said Lt. Dean Hensley with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office.

Gases, including oxygen, nitrogen and argon, mixed at the plant into cylinders that end up used in the processing of such items as food, beverages and electronics, according to a company spokesman.

Air Liquide describes itself as “the world leader in gases for industry, health and the environment.” Houston-based Air Liquide has more than 200 locations, including about 130 gas plants and 2,000 miles of pipeline, the website states.

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