Three killed, dozens injured in parish plant incidents

DERON TALLEY, EDITOR @dvillechief
Two men were killed and dozens were injured at the explosion at the Williams Olefins Chemical Plant in Geismar on Thursday.

Three men died and dozens more were injured last week in two separate plant incidents in Ascension Parish. In Thursday morning there was an explosion at Williams Olefins Chemical Plant in Geismar and on Friday evening a rupture of a nitrogen distribution header during the off-loading of nitrogen at CF Industries in Donaldsonville.

Zachary C. Green, 29, of Hammond and Scott Thrower, 47, of St. Amant died from injuries they sustained in an explosion and fire Thursday morning at the Williams Olefins plant.

According to reports, a “massive fireball” shook the earth emitting a loud boom and reaching as much as 200 feet in the air, rattling the plant at approximately 8:37 a.m. Thursday morning. It was fueled by what officials think was “highly flammable propane and propylene.”

According to the Williams Olefins plant website, the facility annually produces approximately 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer grade propylene. The Olefins team is responsible for the ethane transportation business consisting of approximately 200 miles of pipelines, as well as a refinery-grade propylene splitter.

Gov. Bobby Jindal visited the Geismar plant following the explosion saying he wanted to survey the scene as well as meet with local officials and first responders.

“The people of Geismar need to know that they have every resource of state government working right now,” Jindal said.

More than 300 people were evacuated from the plant site, with 73 taken to area hospitals, including eight taken by helicopter.

The second incident on Friday evening at CF Industries in Donaldsonville resulted in fatal injuries to Ronald “Rocky” Morris, Jr., a 34-year employee with the company. The incident occurred at approximately 6 p.m. Friday evening in a section of the plant that had been “shut down for maintenance activity,” according to a news release from CF Industries.

The incident involved the “rupture” of a nitrogen distribution header during the off-loading of nitrogen.

“There was no fire or chemical release, nor was there any threat or hazard posed to the community,” said Lou Frey, Vice President and General Manager of CF Industries in a released statement.

Several other CF Industries employees were also injured in the blast, including: Courtney Julien, Melvin Singleton, Jeramy Worsham and Kade Yarbrough. Three contractor employees were also injured, according to a report released from the company.

As of Saturday, one CF employee remained in the hospital in stable condition. All others were treated and released.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected and their families,” Frey said in a news release. “Our focus is on our number one priority – the health and safety of our employees and the community. We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our employees.”

According to the CF Industries website, it is the second largest nitrogen fertilizer producer in the world and the third largest phosphate fertilizer producer among public companies. CF Industries owns and operates world-scale nitrogen and phosphate plants and serves agricultural and industrial customers through its best-in-class distribution system.

Lisa Yates contributed to this article

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected and their families,” Frey said in a news release. “Our focus is on our number one priority – the health and safety of our employees and the community. We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our employees.”