Washington, DC, January 30, 2007 - The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying an investigative team to conduct an assessment of today's fatal fuel tank explosion at the Flat Top Little General Store and gas station in Ghent, West Virginia, sixty miles southeast of Charleston.
Media reports indicate that propane gas exploded around 10:45 a.m. this morning. The blast was felt over a mile away. Four fatalities have been reported, including fatal injuries to emergency response personnel. Additional serious injuries have also been reported.
The four-member CSB team will be led by lead investigator Jeff Wanko, PE, CSP, and Supervisory Investigator Robert Hall, PE. The team will be accompanied by Board Member William Wark, who will serve as the principal spokesperson. Team members will arrive in Ghent tomorrow to begin their investigative work.
The investigators will collect information that will assist the Board in deciding whether to conduct a full investigation of the causes of the incident. In 1998, the CSB investigated the root causes of a propane fire and tank explosion in Iowa that caused the deaths of two firefighters and injured seven other responders.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in safety management systems, regulations, and industry standards.
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.
Reporters should contact CSB media representative Sandy Gilmour, who is accompanying the team, at (202) 251-5496 (cell) or Director of Public Affairs Daniel Horowitz at (202) 261-7613 / (202) 441-6074 at CSB headquarters in Washington.