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Jacksonville Plant Explosion at T2 Laboratories Under Investigation

Dec 20, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP

The cause of the T2 Laboratories explosion in Jacksonville, Florida that killed four people has not yet been determined.   The explosion yesterday left another 14 people injured, and resulted in the evacuation of a half mile area around the plant  amid fears that the explosion spilled toxic chemicals into the air.   An investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board was expected to arrive at the site of the Jacksonville plant explosion today. The agency investigates chemical accidents and makes safety recommendations to government regulators.

The explosion at T2 Laboratories occurred 1:30 p.m. yesterday.  Witnesses to the Jacksonville plant explosion reported seeing a bright flash followed by a tremendous explosion.    The explosion was massive enough to blow open doors at a hotel several miles away, and shattered the windows of buildings nearby.   Flames and a plume of smoke formed by the T2 Laboratories explosion shot at least 20 feet into the air, and could be seen for miles around.

T2 Laboratories makes gasoline additives and chemical solvents, and the chemicals used at the plant made the environment "incredibly dangerous for the first responders," according to one Jacksonville Fire Department official.   The official told the Associated Press that "explosions were generating all kinds of side brush fires and other kinds of blazes.”   More than 70 firefighters and every hazardous-materials unit in Jacksonville reported to the scene, and crews used foam and other chemicals to fight the blaze.  Police cordoned off the area near Faye Road, closed off highway exits to the site and set about evacuating office workers from the city’s industrial section.  Both the fire fighting efforts and the evacuation lasted for several hours.

The T2 Laboratories plant is located across the street from the JEA power generating facility, and the Jacksonville plant explosion knocked out two of the power plant’s three generating units.   Management at JEA said that the damage caused by the explosion was not permanent, and they did not anticipate any service interruptions.  However, all non-essential personnel at JEA had been evacuated as a precaution.

Hospitals in Jacksonville were put on mass-casualty alert and local television reporters said they saw several rescue units leaving the scene with lights and sirens.  Four people where confirmed dead as a result of the Jacksonville plant explosion, and 14 others were injured.  All employees at the T2 Laboratories facility were accounted for by evening, and hospitals reported one patient in critical condition, three fair and five good. Conditions for the rest were unknown or it wasn't clear where they were treated.  Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton told the Associated Press that it was miraculous that the loss of life was not greater, considering the damage done to the T2 Laboratories plant.  "Nothing there resembles a building," Mayor Peyton said. "It's amazing when you see the scene that there wasn't more loss of life."



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