Longtime friend remembers plant employee killed in Donaldsonville explosion

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 16, 2013 at 7:47 AM

Updated Sunday, Jun 16 at 7:45 PM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

DONALDSONVILLE, La. - After two deadly explosions in two days at chemical plants in Ascension Parish, federal investigators are working to piece together what caused the latest explosion at CF Industries in Donaldsonville.

Mary Turner lives across from the country's largest nitrogen operation, CF Industries in Donaldsonville. She would have never guessed the tremor she felt Friday night stemmed from an explosion that claimed the life of a longtime friend.

“Yesterday we felt it. Just a slight tremor, like you'd feel in an earthquake.”

The victim, Ronald "Rocky" Morris, Jr., 55, leaves behind a wife and several children and grandchildren. He had worked at the plant for 34 years. Now investigators are trying to figure out what went wrong.

“I remember him as smiling all the time,” said Turner. “He would do anything for you.”

Investigators with OSHA were at the site Saturday, working to piece together what happened. The part of the plant where the explosion happened remains shut down, but other parts of the plant are still operating. There is no word yet on how long the investigation will take.

Plant officials say an 18-wheeler was offloading nitrogen before the blast.

It's not the first time an explosion at CF Industries has claimed a life. In 2000, Turner lost an uncle in a deadly explosion there. Still, she believes the plant is generally safe.

“Being a local, we have a lot of people who work there. They try to keep it safe for their families,” said Turner.

Meanwhile, seven injured workers are recovering. Carlos Julien's son is one of them.

“He said his head was hurting, he was in a lot of pain. He kind of looked puffed up to me. They said he had bleeding on the brain,” said Julien.

Julien said there were two blasts Friday night, one after the other. He believes the first explosion, smaller explosion prompted some workers to head away from the area before the second, larger blast.

“The first one knocked [my son’s] hard hat off. He was able to get up and try to get himself away from it,” said Julien, himself a former plant worker. “When you take those jobs you know it's dangerous but you do the best you can.”

Now, a small, close knit town, with a chemical plant that employees nearly 400 is working to find answers in hopes this doesn’t happen again.

CF Industries has an Employee Assistance Program, to provide emotional and financial help to those impacted by the tragedy. 

As of Sunday, one worker remained hospitalized. 

No word yet on how long the investigation will take. 

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