Explosion at Pennsylvania Asphalt Plant Injures Three

October 14, 2009

Authorities in eastern Pennsylvania say an explosion and fire at an asphalt plant injured three workers, two of them critically.

Cumru Township Fire Marshal Keith Fritz says an electrical panel burst into flames in the control room of the H&K Group’s South Reading Blacktop plant at 11 a.m. Friday. He says 62-year-old James Cawthern, an electrical contractor, was eating lunch in front of the screen. Two workers, 57-year-old John Hanlon and 49-year-old Carl Keefer, were injured after they and others rushed to help Cawthern.

Cawthern and Hanlon were listed in critical condition Saturday at Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown. Keefer was treated at Reading Hospital for smoke inhalation.

The company called the blast a flash electrical fire and says it was the first such accident at the facility, which opened in 1991. Fritz classified the explosion as an accident. State police and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration have also been investigating.

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