Twenty-pound canisters of propane exploded over the course of about 30 minutes earlier this week at a Blue Rhino plant in central Florida. At least eight workers reported injuries as a result of the explosions and subsequent fires; four were considered critically injured.
The critical injuries included severe burns. At least one witness noted that the skin appeared to falling off four seriously burned workers. Another employee was hit by a car while fleeing the explosion site and was seriously injured in that collision.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the sudden explosive event at the propane exchange building. Initial reports note that human error and/or a possible equipment malfunction are to blame; foul play is not suspected.
The Mayor of Tavares, Robert Wolfe, recognized how lucky his town was that the devastation from the explosion wasn't more widespread. Three 30,000 pound storage tanks did not catch fire and also explode, thankfully, limiting the destruction of the propane-fueled blast.
The large tanks are protected by a cooling system that must be manually activated if there is a risk of fire; this sprinkler system was not turned on during the recent explosion because the area was too dangerous to enter while the 20-pound tanks were continuing to burst and flare. While the company asserts that it is compliant with industry workplace safety standards, Mayor Wolfe is hopeful that before the company returns to production, a remote switch will be incorporated into the fire suppression system near the large storage tanks.
Source: CBS Local Miami, "Human Error May Be To Blame For C. Florida Explosion," July 31, 2013