Mortar Blast at Ill. Recycler Kills Two, Hurts One

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Aug. 25--GRANITE CITY -- A mortar round went off at the Totall Metal Recycling plant on Monday morning, killing two people and injuring one, police said.

Major Jeff Connor of the Granite City Police Department told the Post-Dispatch that the bodies of the two who died were still at the scene, some two hours after the explosion.

"We can't even approach the victims," he said because authorities fear there could be additional mortars that could explode.

It was unclear where the mortar came from. It exploded in an outdoor area at the plant.

Connor said a third person was injured and taken to a St. Louis hospital. That person's condition or type of injury isn't available, although Connor said the person was able to communicate with rescuers. Connor said there are no additional victims.

The plant is at 2700 Missouri Avenue. The company's website says it employs more than 160 people in six departments.

On Monday afternoon, the company released a statement saying it was cooperating with authorities.

"This is an extremely difficult day for our entire Totall Metal Recycling family following the loss of two of our friends and colleagues this morning," the statement said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families as we collectively cope with this tragedy."

An Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit truck from Scott Air Force Base was on the scene. A police bomb squad went into the property before 10 a.m.

Relatives began showing up outside the plant but were kept back by police officers.

Miguel Romo, 41, of Fairmount City, is a maintenance worker at the plant. Romo has worked there 15 years. He said he was inside a maintenance building when heard an explosion about 6:30 a.m. Monday. Everyone was ordered off the grounds, he said.

Romo said his brother, Rudolfo Romo, 46, was injured in the blast. He didn't know his brother's condition. He waited outside the plant, near the police line, to hear more but eventually gave up and went home. He said he expects his brother is dead.

Miguel Romo said his brother works at Totall Metal as foreman/supervisor and has been with the company 15 years.

Ryan Cerentano, 29, of Affton, was standing on Missouri Avenue, down the road from the plant. He had been fired from the plant in May. He showed up Monday morning, yelling at the company from behind the police lines, and police told him to calm down. He said one of those killed was his half-brother, Tyler Muenstermann, 24, of Edwardsville.

Cerentano said his half-brother had worked at the company for about 18 months and was a McKendree University graduate and football player.

"He was the best of all of us," Cerentano said. "It's far more than I can fathom right now, and I'm having a real hard time dealing with it."

Cerentano claimed conditions at the company were not safe. "There's a lot of unsafe stuff there," he said.

No company official was available for comment.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration sent an investigator to the scene. Aaron Priddy, area director in OSHA's Fairview Heights area office, said the investigator is a compliance officer who is coordinating efforts with the fire chief and ATF agent.

OSHA has cited Totall Metal's facility in Granite City for serious violations in 2011 and 2012 for violations of lead and respiratory protections, Priddy said. He said the company also has another facility in Fairmont City.

Kim Bell of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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