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Victim in Plant Explosion Identified

The victim in the recent Optima Chemicals Company plant explosion in Belle, West Virginia has been identified as John Gillenwater. The family released a statement to the public, sharing their devastation and thanking everyone for their prayers. A donation fund for the family has also been established and the statement explained that John was the primary earner in the family.

The explosion occurred on Tuesday, December 8th at approximately 10:30 pm inside of the Optima Chemicals Company, which is a tenant at the Chemours water treatment plant site located in Belle.

According to the Kanawha County Emergency Management Director, the explosion involved methanol and chlorine, but the specific cause is still under investigation. The explosion sent large pieces of metal flying through the air.

Three people were taken to the hospital following the explosion, one of whom was severely injured. A fourth later sought medical care.

Customers were not impacted by the explosion, nor did the explosion affect the quality of drinking water in the area. Authorities also say that there appears to be no evidence that the chemicals go into the Kanawha River. A two-mile-wide shelter-in-place order was issued after the explosion and continued into early the following morning and at least one major road in the area was temporarily closed.

Responders to the incident were forced to let the fire burn down before assessing the scene. There were both mass triage teams and mass casualty teams at the scene, mainly as a precaution in case there had been more injuries.

Chemical plants are one of the most dangerous work environments.

Following an explosion that killed more than 2000 in a chemical plant in Bhopal, India, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established guidelines to help employers reduce the potential hazards faced by those working in chemical industries.

Guidelines encourage those in management in these types of plants to consider:

  • Elements of the production process and how to keep operations within safe bounds under normal working conditions
  • How critical failure points are identified and what controls are in place that ensures safe operations.
  • What emergency response systems are embedded in the operating system

Plants are also encouraged to have systems in place that identify who is responsible for what issues and to make sure these systems address:

  • Plant layout
  • Contamination control
  • Materials compatibility
  • Ongoing inspection and maintenance
  • And more

Despite these efforts, accidents still occur. If you or a loved one was injured in a chemical accident in the workplace, we can help. Contact Heavens Law at 888.897.5377 for more information or to schedule a consultation.