Plant safety in focus after two explosions

Published: Jun. 17, 2013 at 9:44 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 24, 2013 at 9:44 PM CDT
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Two chemical plant accidents in one week leave many people wondering how safe the facilities are.

Production at CF Industries in Donaldsonville remained shut down Monday, after an incident Friday killed one person and injured seven others. That accident happened a day after a fatal chemical plant blast in Geismar.

OSHA workers are now conducting one of three investigations, running plant officials through emergency drills after the worst accident at CF in 13 years.

"We have an area roped off, and they're trying to put the pieces together to try and find out what happened," said plant manager Lou Frey.

55-year-old Rocky Morris was killed in the Friday blast. Early indications are that the accident occurred as a truck was transferring nitrogen to the plant.

Landon Weber was working at the same unit, the day before the accident. "It really makes you think about what you're going into. You can make good money but you never know if you're going home," Weber said.

The explosion occurred while the plant was being re-worked in a process called a "turnaround," involving as many as 20 outside contractors.

For the plant manager, this explosion is more than business, it's personal. He's known Morris and his family for 30 years.

"We want to find out what happened, because we don't want this to happen again." said Frey.

The CF explosion came a day after another explosion at the Williams plant near Geismar. Two people were killed there, including Scott Thrower.

"He cared about the people close to him and he was a high-character person," said Thrower's friend, Brandon Settoon.

Thousands of River Region residents earn their living from these plants and often worry. Plant workers are now organizing a blood drive for dozens of victims and their families.

In the meantime, multiple investigations continue, aiming to head off more such mishaps in the future.

OSHA will remain at CF until its investigation is concluded. CF says it is conducting its own investigation, and they say they have hired a third party to figure out what went wrong as well.

The victims' blood drive begins at 8 a.m. Tuesday at Bengal Transportation, 37156 Highway 30 in Geismar.