One Dead in Chevron MS Refinery Blast

Friday, November 15, 2013 @ 04:11 PM gHale

A refinery operator died early this morning at the Chevron Pascagoula, MS, Refinery when a furnace she was standing near exploded.

Tonya Graddy, an operator at the plant with 5 years of service, died in the early morning incident.

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Plant Manager Tom Kovar said there was a “detonation and fire inside the furnace and outside” and Graddy was one of the operators standing outside the unit when the explosion occurred.

The furnace was in the Cracking II unit in the south-central part of the refinery, which is located at the end of Industrial Road, east of Pascagoula.

The fire was isolated to that unit and kept from spreading by the refinery firefighting and emergency teams, Kovar said. The entire refinery never shut down, he said.

There were no other injuries even though there were an estimated several hundred employees at the refinery at the time of the explosion and about a dozen in the vicinity.

“We have secured the affected area with barricades and are assuring that the area is safe for investigators and other necessary personnel,” the company said in a release. “In light of this tragic event, Chevron has cancelled all anniversary events scheduled for this weekend to celebrate 50 years of operating.

A spokesman for the plant said there have been five fatalities in 50 years, the last one in 2003.

The explosion had a relatively small footprint, there was no toxic release or danger to the community, Kovar said.

“It’s a very, very busy refinery and we’re very proud of our safety record,” Kovar said. “Obviously this event weighs heavily on the refinery and me.”

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