St. Louis, Missouri, June 26, 2005 - A team from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) arrived in St. Louis, MO, on Saturday to get a first-hand look at the damage wreaked by Friday's multiple gas explosions at Praxair Inc. facility. CSB Investigation Manager Steve Selk, PE, led the team of three, who toured the plant and surrounding community to assess the damage and impact of the incident.
Praxair handles propane, acetylene and other gases for sale to industrial and commercial customers, the tanks of which generated the sequence of fiery explosions seen during the incident. In addition to the charred debris covering the grounds of the facility, investigators found nearby homes, buildings and cars that were struck and burned or damaged by airborne cylinders hurtled offsite. In one case, a two-foot diameter hole was found in the brick wall of a residence. Large, twisted pieces of metal were also found on the grounds and gardens of nearby residences and there was evidence of small fires that were ignited off-site.
"In surveying the scene and the damage to the immediate area surrounding the facility, we feel that the incident raises interesting questions about the potential for improved fire protection," said Steve Selk. "The sheer volume of cylinders exploding, which numbered in the hundreds, certainly concerns us. The CSB's role in these types of accidents is aimed at preventing them from happening again."
The team is expected to remain in St. Louis for a few days before returning to Washington, DC, and reviewing what additional work, if any, is warranted in the case.
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.
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. Further information about the CSB is available from www.csb.gov.
The CSB on-site media contact is Ms. Jean Gonsoulin, (713) 202-0972 (cell). Other inquiries should be directed to Daniel Horowitz at (202) 441-6074 (cell).