A Donaldsonville explosion represents the second fatal chemical plant explosion in Ascension Parish, Louisiana in two days. One worker was killed when an 18-wheeler offloading nitrogen at CF Industries exploded Friday night. Seven others have been injured.
The dead man was 55-year-old Ronald Morris Jr. of Belle Rose. He had worked for 34 years in the plant.
The Donaldsonville disaster came back to back after Thursday’s huge fire and explosion at the Williams-Olefins chemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana on Thursday. 29-year-old Seth Green of Pontchatoula was killed, and over 70 injured had to be treated in area hospitals.
In a tragic twist, Green’s father had also died in an industrial accident almost two decades before.
With nerves on edge from the Geismar explosion, multiple media sources described the new industrial accident as the Donaldsonville explosion.
However, some authorities objected to the description. Ascension Parish sheriff Jeff Wiley said:
“There was no explosion and no fire. Everything is secure right now. There was never any public threat.”
Two of the seven injured were airlifted to area hospitals, but all of the survivors were in fair to stable condition in the immediate aftermath of the incident. By Saturday afternoon, only one of them remained in the hospital.
The event might be better characterized as a high pressure rupture or leak, something like an overinflated tire popping.
The cause of the accident isn’t known, but plant manager Lou Frey said that it was under investigation. A CF Industries statement said they will cooperate with regulatory agencies to find out what went wrong. The plant produces ammonia and potentially hazardous nitrogen fertilizer.
In much more serious accident in West, Texas, an explosion at a nitrate-producing plant killed 14 and devastated a large area of the small town.
A 2000 Donaldsonville explosion at the same CF Industries plant killed three and resulted in an almost $150,000 fine from OSHA.
[fire photo by Marcus Obal via Wikimedia Commons]