Probe of Florida Propane Plant Blast Underway

Tavares Fire Chief Richard Keith said sabotage is not suspected.


Brockelmeyer said the company corrected the issue and added that "the process is performed in an area away from where the tanks are filled....so no product was being processed in that area."

Four workers were listed in critical conditions at area hospitals. Tavares Fire Department Battalion Commander Eric Wages said five workers walked up to a command center firefighters set up near the plant Monday night with skin hanging off their arms, torso and faces. He said their arms were outstretched and they were in complete shock.

The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed that 29-year-old Leesburg resident Kaghy Sam was struck by an SUV driven by 72-year-old Gene Batson on a road near the Blue Rhino plant. A statement from the FHP said Sam was running on the road "due to a large fire and several explosions" just before 11 p.m. Monday and "ran into the direct path" of Batson's vehicle.

Sam was flown to Ocala Regional Medical Center with serious injuries. No charges were filed in the auto accident.

Croughwell said firefighters who responded to the fire had to wait to enter the plant site because conditions were so dangerous. Just as they were finally about to go in, four tractor-trailers parked next to the large propane tanks caught fire.

Chief Keith said the explosions shook his house several miles from the plant. "It truly sounded like a car hit our house," he said.

By early Tuesday, the plant's concrete lot was littered with thousands of charred 20-pound canisters.

About 50 homes were evacuated overnight, but they were allowed to return after four hours.

Marni Whitehead, 33, who lives less than a mile from the plant, said she was in bed ready to go to sleep when she heard a loud boom.

She ran outside and saw other neighbors outside and then they saw the explosions.

"We knew right away it was the plant, the propane plant," Whitehead said. "After that, it was just sort of panic."

Whitehead likened the explosions to Fourth of July fireworks. "And it was just boom after boom after boom," she said.

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Associated press writers Kyle Hightower in Orlando and Freida Frisaro in Miami contributed to this report.

 


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