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Milwaukee blast injures dozens

Dec 6, 2006 | AP

An explosion rocked the industrial Menomonee Valley near downtown Milwaukee Wednesday morning, injuring about 30 people, a fire official said.

The explosion ignited a fire at a Falk Corp. warehouse near the Potawatomi casino and about a half mile from the Miller Brewing Co., fire Lt. Brian O'Connor said.

Injured people were being taken to numerous hospitals, he said.

Falk makes large industrial gears and couplings, employing about 900 people in Wisconsin. It is a subsidiary of West Milwaukee-based Rexnord Corp., a manufacturer of mechanical power transmission components with annual revenues of approximately $800 million.

Falk employee David L. Mays, 61, said the company began to evacuate workers this morning after a leak occurred in one of six large propane tanks behind a building workers call the annex. He and others were outside when the tank exploded.

"It sounded like when I was in Vietnam, incoming mortar rounds," said Mays, an Army veteran.

The concussion of the explosion knocked him down and flipped over his car, destroying it.

"But I'm OK," Mays said as a single tear rolled down his left cheek.

The explosion could be felt at the firehouse about a mile and a half away, O'Connor said. It destroyed Falk's wood frame warehouse and numerous cars and damaged several other buildings in the complex, he said. The fire spread through rubble covering several blocks.

Construction crews working on buildings in the surrounding area were sent home by their companies because of concern about smoke from the spreading fire.

Construction worker Jack Obarski, 46, of Milwaukee, said he was working when he heard a loud boom and saw smoke hundreds of feet in the air.

"Stuff was just flying up in the air," Obarski said as he headed home.

Gillen Co. had several workers driving piles nearby. Edward C. Crockett Jr., 41, of Milwaukee, said he felt the ground shake and saw debris fly into the air.

"I felt it and you knew something wasn't right. I thought it was train engine," said Crockett, who motioned to nearby train tracks that run through the industrial area.

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