An explosion at the Blue Rhino gas plant in Tavares, Florida occurred late Monday night, injuring at least eight workers, five of whom are in critical condition. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the fire came from propane cylinders, which are cleaned, refurbished, refilled, and packaged at the Tavares plant.
A crew of 24 to 26 people was working at the plant when the explosions occurred around 11 p.m. on Monday night. Residents reported that the explosions sounded like bombs going off, one after another.
There were approximately 53,000 of the 20-pound propane tanks on site at the time of the explosion. Three bulk tanks, containing a total of 90,000 pounds of propane, did not ignite in the fire.
When reached for comment, Mike Papantonio, a senior partner with the Florida law firm of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty, and Proctor, said, “We’re going to see many more mass catastrophes like this because of cutbacks and safety regulations by politicians who put ideology over human life.”
On Tuesday morning, Tavares Fire Chief Richard Keith told reporters, “we don’t think there was any act of sabotage or anything like that.”
Keith said the explosion was likely due to equipment failure or human error. Early Tuesday afternoon, an inspector found “a small leak” in one of the three bulk tanks. “Officials said it was ‘under control’ and ‘no cause for serious concern,’” the Sentinel reports.
Nine patients were treated by firefighters and paramedics late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. One of the patients, who was treated for smoke inhalation, was not an employee of the plant.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have opened an investigation into the explosion, according to US Department of Labor spokeswoman Lindsay Williams. OSHA commented that they do not have any details regarding the incident and may take up to six months to issue any findings and “determine whether any OSHA standards were violated.”
The Blue Rhino plant, which is licensed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service, underwent a yearly safety inspection two weeks before the explosion occurred. No violations were found on that July 19 visit, according to the Sentinel.