Three people were injured in an October 11 chemical explosion at Northeast Agricultural Sales in Detroit, Maine. In the early afternoon, a three-man crew was working to clean sulfur and dust out of an 86-foot-tall silo. When the blast occurred, the clothing of one of the men working at the top of the silo caught fire.
Anthony Towers, 62, of Newport and Clarence Rider, 36, of Pittsfield were working at the top of the silo. Lee Gustin, 50, of Cambridge was working on the ground. Towers was using a shovel to clear away the dust when something sparked the explosion. His clothes caught fire. Rider smothered the flames and both men were able to to make it the ground were Gustin assisted them.
First responders were called to the scene on North Road, off Route 100 in Detroit, at 1:30 p.m. Towers, who suffered “extensive burns,” according to local media reports, was airlifted to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Rider and Gustin, who were both experiencing respiratory problems, were transported to Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield.
Fire crews brought the fire under control by 4 p.m. Pittsfield Fire Chief Bernard Williams told WABI News that sulfur dust caused the explosion but the silo did contain residues of other products.
— Kayla Fish (@_KaylaFish) October 11, 2017
Previous Safety Violations at Northeast Agricultural Sales
Northeast Agricultural Sales manufactures fertilizer in three locations, Fort Fairfield, Maine; Lyndonville, Vermont and Detroit, a town with a population of 852, located about 30 miles west of Bangor.
In 2014, the company was fined more than $20,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for safety violations. During two visits in April of that year, OSHA inspectors found nine safety violations in the areas of: materials handling, wiring design and protection, abrasive wheel machinery, mechanical power transmission apparatus and oxygen fuel gas welding and cutting.
Fire inspectors are still working to determine what caused the spark that ignited the blaze. Because grain dust is highly combustible, companies that work with it must take extra care to prevent dust buildup and keep equipment well-functioning so sparks don’t provide an ignition source.
On average, there are 10 grain dust explosions in the U.S. each year resulting in 12 injuries and one fatality. Earlier this year, a huge grain dust explosion in Cambria, Wisconsin killed five people.
Didion Milling in Cambria processes corn and corn by-products for ethanol plants. Around 11 p.m. on May 31, an explosion occurred. More than a dozen people suffered burns and other injuries. Five of them died. Like Northeast Agricultural Sales, Didion Milling had been cited by OSHA for safety violations prior to the explosion. OSHA has not yet completed its final report on the explosion, so it is not known at this time what caused the dust to ignite.
JCG Farms Explosion
A February 2016 explosion at JCG Farms, a chicken feed mill in Rockmart, Georgia, killed a 25-year-old man and injured five others. OSHA investigators said the explosion occurred after an excessive accumulation of grain dust ignited. Investigators said the tragedy could have been prevented had safety standards not been violated.
Tate and Lyle Explosion
A September 2016 grain elevator explosion at Tate & Lyle in Francesville, Indiana killed two men. An investigative team with representatives from the Indiana Fire Marshall’s office, the Northern Indiana Public Service Company and Tate & Lyle determined that a dust explosion was triggered by a “catastrophic failure of the downward leg.”
A Legal Team with Experience
If you or your family member have been injured in an explosion and you have questions about your legal rights, contact the explosion lawyers at Pritzker Hageman for a free consultation. Our lead attorneys for these cases, Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman, have successfully represented clients who have been injured in explosions. And they don’t get paid unless they win.
The explosion lawyers at Pritzker Hageman recently secured a settlement of more than $10 million on behalf of a client who was severely injured in an explosion. You can contact our law firm for a free consultation using the form below or at 1-888-377-8900 (toll free).