Industrial Plant Explosion in Clinton Township Kills 19-year-old, Injures Firefighter [Updated]

Updated March 7, 2024. A massive fire and explosion at an industrial plant rocked the Michigan suburb of Clinton Township Monday night. The blast broke out at a vape supply facility illegally storing canisters of butane and nitrous oxide that caught fire and sent debris flying into the air. A 19-year-old man, Turner Lee Salter, was struck by shrapnel at a car wash about a quarter of a mile away from the fire. A second bystander was injured by a piece of a propane tank, and a responding firefighter was struck when a flying canister went through the window of a fire truck. Salter was transported to the hospital where sadly, he later died.

Salter leaves behind a loving family, including his three siblings, parents, and grandparents. Tim Berlin, the pastor of Faith Baptist Church where Salter’s family worships, described him as a “kind person.” Berlin told The Detroit News, “…He was just one of those guys you could just always depend on.”

The explosion’s impact was felt as far as Macomb Township, about ten miles away. Some viewers told Local 4 News that the blast sounded like fireworks and many asked if the sound was gunfire.

Eight fire departments responded to the plant to get the fire under control. HAZMAT crews found smoke in the air, but no dangerous chemicals. As of 10:14 pm on Monday, the Clinton Township Police Department urged residents to stay away from the immediate area.

Fire and Explosion Investigation Continues

An investigation is ongoing, under the jurisdiction of the Clinton Township Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

According to The Detroit News, federal records show that Select Distributors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2021. The Clinton Township Building Department reported that the facility was zoned for commercial sales and was not supposed to store combustible gasses. A recent township warning also addressed the improper storage of duck boats at the location, but the presence of gas canisters was not identified during that inspection.

Bulk Gas Containers Create a Dangerous Explosion Hazard

Reports describe Select Distributors as a wholesale supplier of novelty items like phone accessories, candy, and antifreeze. The facility reportedly also sells items for smoke shops such as cans of nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas), CBD products, vape pens, vaporizer batteries, kratom capsules, and bulk boxes of butane canisters.

Improperly stored gas cans create a serious fire and explosion hazard due to the flammable vapors they release. These vapors can easily ignite from various sources like sparks, open flames, or even static electricity, causing a flashback fire that travels down the can’s opening and triggers a powerful explosion.

In addition to the bulk gas canisters, more than 100,000 vape pens were found at the facility. Vapes, like cellphones or other electronics, contain lithium-ion batteries that can overheat and explode, especially when exposed to fire.

Industry experts say that butane and other materials stored at the facility are likely linked to manufacturing marijuana products. Butane can be used to extract THC from cannabis to produce an oil that has the consistency of honey or wax and can be used in vaporizers.

Butane gas explosions send dozens of people to the hospital with severe burn injuries each year. Research from the National Institute of Health shows that explosions and burn injuries from butane gas associated with the vaping and marijuana industry are a “growing and underappreciated problem.”

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Pritzker Hageman is one of the few law firms in the country with experience representing families who lost a loved one in explosion lawsuits nationwide. The Pritzker Hageman explosion attorneys have gone up against big gas companies to win groundbreaking settlements and verdicts for our clients.

If your family lost a loved one in an industrial explosion, you may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the wrongdoers whose negligence caused the tragedy. While no amount of money could ever make up for your family’s loss, filing an explosion wrongful death lawsuit will help you obtain justice and compensation on your loved one’s behalf.

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