Picking up the pieces after last week's deadly explosion in Muskogee

Tuesday, January 4th 2005, 10:35 am
By: News On 6

The investigation into the explosion and fire at a Muskogee metals plant continues. An employee killed in the explosion at Yaffe Iron and Metals was remembered at a funeral Monday night, as authorities narrow down the possible causes for the blast.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says Connie Flessa and Tom Hogle can't forget last Tuesday night. They were watching TV when the furnace blew at Yaffe Metals.

Neighbor Tom Hogle: “It didn't blow us off the couch, it picked the couch up and slammed it down with us on it, slammed us down hard.” The blast buckled the walls of their house and cracked the chimney. They've been in a motel since.

Neighbor Connie Flessa: “It scooted the roof over and blew out the windows inside and out, and the kitchen, it blowed it a foot, foot and half off the foundation.”

The neighbors around Yaffe are dealing with insurance agents and beginning repairs, and the plant is doing its own repairs. The company isn't sure which buildings will be rebuilt or if the furnace will be replaced, but they're committed to staying put in Muskogee and keep all those jobs in Muskogee.

The giant buildings at Yaffe were used for processing different metals and they all were heavily damaged. All that's left of the furnace is a pile of bricks that lined the inside. The interior of the main office was blown out but the building remains sound.

The plant reopened Monday to buy scrap, but most of the employees are working on the cleanup. Connie Flessa: “It wasn't a new home to begin with, but we were living here.”

The neighbors seem confident they'll be reimbursed for their losses but some still don't know just how much damage they have.

An expert on industrial furnaces says the cause could either be excess fuel at the furnace or a reaction prompted by water getting into the furnace. The Yaffe family says they're not sure if either scenario is the cause.

The plant has 80 employees in Muskogee, 500 company-wide.