Tropicana Employees Injured in Fire at Florida Plant

BRADENTON - A fire at the Tropicana plant sent two men to the hospital Monday night.

An employee was cleaning a vertical tank with a cleaning solvent the employees referred to as "brake fluid" when something ignited the fumes, said Pete Donchenko, battalion chief with South Manatee Fire Rescue.

Capt. Larry Leinhauser, of the Manatee County Department of Public Safety, said an unidentified 53-year-old man's shirt caught on fire. The man suffered first- and second-degree burns on 64 percent of his body, including his head, neck and torso, officials said.

Officials said the man, who had trouble breathing immediately after the fire, was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center, where he was to be treated temporarily.

Leinhauser said the man would be transferred to Tampa General Hospital's burn unit, but weather conditions did not permit the move immediately after the accident.

Another unidentified employee, who helped extinguish the fire, also was burned, officials said. He taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital for treatment of first-degree burns on his arms and hands.

Donchenko said the men were using a brake fluid as an industrial solvent to clean tanks in a room near the southwest side of the plant.

He said the tanks are used in an anhydrous ammonia process and that a spark from a "drop light" lamp could have caused the fire.

The state fire marshal was called to conduct an investigation Monday night.

A Tropicana spokesman said the company is conducting an internal investigation.

Erica Rodriguez, Herald reporter, can be reached by email here.

Distributed by the Associated Press