Chemical plant workers reunite with family after explosion

Published: Jun. 14, 2013 at 2:14 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2013 at 2:18 AM CDT
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Gonzales, La. - Chemical plant workers packed the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, waiting to see their families for the first time since a ground-rattling explosion at the plant.

Nervous family members began arriving with little information about their loved ones.

"We're from Lafayette. We drove three hours to get here. We didn't see anybody. We just don't know anything right now," says Jacob Burch.

"When his wife called me, I knew something was wrong. It was hard enough for her to get it out and then she didn't know much," says Melanie Poe.

Poe received a call around 9 in the morning about the explosion at the plant. Her family jumped in the car and rushed over from Alexandria to find her brother. He had a minor back injury.

"He said he saw fire coming from both sides and he turned around and took off running. He said he couldn't run fast enough. I don't know if he tripped or what but he was knocked down and shuffled around a bit," says Poe.

Witnesses describe a chaotic scene of flames as high as 200 feet into the air and workers scrambling over gates to escape the plant.

Of the 77 injured workers, 51 were treated and released from the hospital. Many were brought back to the Lamar Dixon Center.

One of them was Aaron Staffore, a pipe fitter who said he was working next to the area where the explosion happened. All of a sudden, he says, everything shook and he could feel fire on his back.

"The burns on my head and on my ears are from running. The fire just came over me like a cloud. It was so bad," says Staffore.

Residents who live several miles from the plant describe feeling the ground shaking. Workers inside of the plant say it happened very fast and all they could do was run, which created the chaos.