Explosions rock propane plant in central Florida

Screen shot 2013-07-30 at 9.15.00 AM
Massive explosions injured several workers at the Blue Rhino plant in Tavares, Fla., on Monday.
Credit: YouTube via ITN

Dozens of explosions rocked a propane tank servicing plant in central Florida, northwest of Orlando, late on Monday, injuring seven workers, at least three critically, and prompting the evacuation of nearby homes, authorities said.

No one outside the plant was hurt by the blasts, which began about 10:30 p.m. at the Blue Rhino propane gas filling station in the town of Tavares, about 40 miles northwest of Orlando, said John Herrell, a Lake County sheriff’s spokesman.


Fifteen workers were initially reported missing, but all subsequently were found unscathed, Herrell said. Two others were safe from the outset.

“Obviously it was a very, very dangerous scene” when firefighters arrived, Herrell said.  

The chain reaction of explosions, ripping through 20-pound propane cylinders one after another — one tank every few seconds at its peak — unleashed tall columns of flames into the night sky. Homeowners several miles away reported feeling shocks from the explosions.

“We are hearing the booms here inside the restaurant,” said Jessica McClure, 23, a waitress at a Denny’s restaurant 7 miles north of the scene in the town of Eustis.

She said a bright orange glow from the fire was visible in the distance as she arrived at work at about 11 p.m.

What caused the explosions was not immediately known, Herrell said.

He said seven workers were injured.

Three men from the Blue Rhino plant were flown by helicopter to the Orlando Regional Medical Center, all of them in critical condition with burns, Sybrina Childress, a spokeswoman for the trauma center told Reuters.

Lake County emergency dispatchers said homes located within a mile of the facility were ordered to evacuate as a precaution.

Aerial views of the facility from footage shot by a local television station about 90 minutes after the first explosions showed a large fire, apparently being fed by continuing explosions, surrounded by smaller blazes.

After another 30 minutes, the main fire appeared to be dying down, and the wreckage of what appeared to be burned-out trucks could be seen.

Speaking by telephone to local NBC affiliate WESH-TV, former plant supervisor Don Ingram said the company took in propane tanks used for home gas grills, cleaned them, checked the valves and refilled them. He said that tanks were stacked on plastic pallets four and five high behind the filling station.

Herrell said an estimated 53,000 propane cylinders were kept on the property.

He said a late crew typically refills 4,000 to 5,000 tanks overnight. The nearest residential neighborhood is located about a quarter-mile from the facility behind a row of trees, Ingram said.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.