Explosion Causes Injuries At Eufaula Sandblasting Company
EUFAULA, Oklahoma - Two workers critically injured Tuesday after explosions rocked a Eufaula business have been identified as Michael Cox and Don Hamilton.
Emergency responders spent most of Tuesday working the fire.
Neighbors say they warned the city that someone was going to get hurt.
"I just heard a loud explosion and a rumble and I ran outside and it was everything on fire over there," said Kyle Lapach.
A buckled roof and burned metal is what's left of Ford Sandblasting. Fire officials say a propane gas leak prompted back-to-back explosions.
"I could have figured the house was gonna fall over with the size of that explosion, it was really scary," Kyle said.
The business sandblasts and paints propane tanks, among other things. Fire officials say workers were moving a 250-gallon tank when it slipped off a forklift, breaking a valve. But that didn't cause an immediate explosion.
"The tank itself it, from what I'm understanding didn't blow, it was just leaking and then, whenever it got to an ignition source, that's what caused the explosion. You know, it had to get to some kind of ignition source," said Eufaula Fire Chief Clifford Shatswell.
Firefighters haven't determined what that ignition source was, but say the explosions happened when two of the workers went back inside, possibly to turn on an exhaust fan. Both were flown to Tulsa hospitals.
The elementary and middle schools, about a quarter-mile up the road, were evacuated.
"It could have been a lot worse if the tanks would have continued to start exploding. Could have a major situation had they'd continued to blow," Shatswell said.
No more than 300 yards away sits the Lapach family home. They say they've filed complaints about the company with the city and say they're not surprise by the explosions.
"They've been doing industrial work in a commercial building and they paint and the fumes are so bad we cant keep our windows open at night," said Larrissa Lapach.
Larrissa and her family have lived in the same house for about a decade, but she said she hasn't felt safe living there since the sandblasting business moved in next-door earlier this year. She said they asked the city to look into the company's procedures.
"We were trying to prevent that by the complaints," she said. "Someone was gonna get hurt and we knew that, and I'm sorry that they did and it makes us feel awful that they did get hurt."
The propane administration was there investigating Tuesday and OSHA is expected to be there Wednesday.
And ironically enough, those school children up the road had a drill just last week to be ready for situations like this, so they were well-prepared.