Investigation begins to find out what sparked plant fire in Geismar

Investigation begins to find out what sparked plant fire in Geismar
Photo submitted to NBC33.

POSTED: Saturday, June 15, 2013 - 3:24pm

UPDATED: Sunday, June 16, 2013 - 7:47pm

The investigation to find out the cause of the deadly explosion at the Williams Olefins Plant is officially underway.

An investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board will begin working at the plant this weekend. The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accident.

Officials noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would also be involved with the investigation.

"A significant amount of damage was created,” Taylor Moss, LSP Emergency Services, said. “In these type of events once we ensure the public's safety we relinquish control back to the facility, OSHA will come in with an investigator who is already on site and conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the incident."

On Friday, June 14, Williams Olefins held a noon press conference in Gonzales. They noted that the blast site was inaccessible due to continued controlled burns.

“The extent of the damage is unknown at this time,” he said. “We are assessing the plant’s structural integrity currently.”

A total of 77 people were reportedly injured from the blast, which happened shortly after 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 13. He said there were 839 people on site at the time of the blast. That included full-time employees and contractors because the plant is completing an expansion. However, they do not believe that contributed to the explosion.

Two employees were killed in the blast. Zachary Green, 29, was killed by the initial impact. Scott Thrower, 47, was one of the men transported to the Baton Rouge General in critical condition. He died shortly after the press conference concluded on Friday.

"A lot of us in this industry have spent much of our careers working to make it safe to operate," Alan Armstrong, CEO of Williams Companies, said. "And so when something happens like this, it honestly feels like a big failure."

Armstrong stated that all Williams employees will be paid for the duration of the closure. He said he will need to speak with the contracting companies about whether and how those workers will receive compensation.

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