Report: Deadly Explosion at Fla. Chemical Plant Equal to Ton of TNT

January 7, 2008

The blast from an explosion that killed four workers at a Florida chemical plant last month was equal to a ton of TNT and blew debris as far as a mile away, a U.S. investigator said Thursday.

“The blast at T2 (Laboratories Inc.) was one of the most powerful ever examined by the Chemical Safety Board,” said Robert Hall, investigator-in-charge from CSB, a federal agency that investigates major chemical accidents at industrial sites.

The cause of the Dec. 19 explosion has not been determined, and Hall said it was too soon to determine if it was caused by human error, mechanical error or a combination of both.

Investigators have not been able to enter the debris field because it is still too hazardous, Hall said.

The blast occurred as workers were mixing chemicals in a batch reactor to produce an additive to increase the octane rating of gasoline.

One of the pieces of debris, weighing several hundred pounds, was found about a quarter-mile away, Hall said.

So far, the investigation has been confined to surveying the nearby businesses, documenting blast damage, identifying injuries, interviewing injured workers and collecting security camera videos.

It may be several months to a year before the cause is determined, Hall said at a news conference.

One person remains hospitalized, although 14 people were injured by the blast, Hall said.

Hall said the company is cooperating in the investigation. A person who answered the telephone at T2 last week and would not give his name said he could not comment since he did not know the contents of Hall’s briefing.

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