Plant CEO: Explosion feels like a big failure

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 14, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 14 at 5:41 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

GEISMAR, La. - A second worker has died in Thursday's explosion and fire at the Williams Olefin plant in Giesmar, up river from New Orleans.

Baton Rouge General said it was deeply saddened to announce that Scott Thrower, a patient listed in critical condition, in the hospital's burn unit, passed away.

“On behalf of Baton Rouge General and our Regional Burn Center team, we express heartfelt condolences to Mr. Thrower’s family and friends for their loss, and to all those affected by this tragic event,” said Dr. Floyd Roberts, Baton Rouge General’s Chief Medical Officer.

Thrower, 47, of St. Amant joins Zachary Green, 29, of Hammond as the only two people to die in the accident. 77 workers were injured.

"A lot of us in this industry have spent much of our careers working to make it safe to operate," said Williams CEO Alan Armstrong. "So, when something happens like this, it honestly feels like a big failure."

Monday, a small crew continued to shut down the plant.

The investigation into what caused a unit that produces the flammable gas propylene to suddenly explode is just beginning.

"We're very focused right now and will be getting focused on bringing all the necessary resources that we can bring and working closely with both federal and state authorities to determine the cause of this terrible accident," said Armstrong.

Special teams are now on the plant site assessing the damage from the explosion. At this point, Williams officials do not know when the facility will be back up and operating.

"We will be cooperating with OSHA and all the other governmental agencies to assess the plants structural integrity and to ensure safe conditions for all of our employees," said Williams Plant Manager Larry Bayer. "Once that assessment's done, then we'll put a plan together to repair the facility and we'll carry out that plan and come up."

Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley described the explosion as a wake up call.

"We love the petro-chemical industry and we love the engine, the economics that go with it and the jobs and quality of life it provides," said Wiley. "Sadly and tragically we get reminded by the fact that things can happen and clearly they happened yesterday."

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality continues to monitor the air outside the 25 acre site. So far there have been no impacts reported in the surrounding area.

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