Jacksonville Plant Explosion Injuries More than Double What Was First ReportedJan 29, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
The Jacksonville plant explosion at T2 Laboratories in Florida was worse than first thought. Early reports said that 14 people were injured in the fatal blast that occurred at T2 Laboratories in December, but now it appears that more than double that number were actually hurt by the Jacksonville plant explosion. Flying debris from the T2 Laboratories explosion apparently hit 19 other people not on the Jacksonville plant’s grounds, causing minor injuries like cuts and bruises. In addition to the 33 injured, the Jacksonville plant explosion killed four workers at T2 Laboratories.
The explosion at T2 Laboratories occurred 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 19. Witnesses to the Jacksonville plant explosion reported seeing a bright flash followed by a tremendous explosion. The blast 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.
Earlier this month, Robert Hall, the head of the US Chemical Safety Board team investigating the Jacksonville plant explosion had called it among the most powerful ever examined” by the 10-year-old board. The blast was equivalent to the detonation of a ton of TNT, and most likely resulted from a runaway chemical reaction in an overheated chemical mixing chamber, investigators said at the time.
A liquid solution of methylcyclopentadiene was being mixed with metallic sodium inside the plant’s mixing chamber. Vapors from methylcyclopentadiene can ignite at 80 degrees, according to safety warnings for the chemical solution. An employee at a nearby sandblasting company who witnessed the T2 Laboratories explosion previously told a Jacksonville newspaper that a pipe ruptured at the top of a tower on the property and a white cloud appeared before the explosion. At the January 4 press conference, Hall said that rupture was caused by mounting pressure inside the chamber, which was designed to withstand force equal to “several thousand pounds” per square inch. When the chamber blew apart, pieces weighing hundreds of pounds were thrown up to a quarter-mile away. Hall said a huge fire that followed the explosion started when chemicals in the broken chamber were exposed to heat and oxygen
Four T2 Laboratories workers - co-owner Scott Gallagher and workers Karey Renard Henry Sr., Parrish Lamar Ashley and Charles Budds Bolchoz – died as a result of the Jacksonville plant explosion. People as far 750 feet away from the site of the Jacksonville plant explosion needed medical treatment, and buildings as far as 1,000 feet away sustained damage. At least three nearby businesses had buildings that city inspectors effectively closed because of their extensive damage.