Explosions Blow Roof Off Fla. Gas Plant

7 injured as human error, equipment fail blamed

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 30, 2013 12:39 AM CDT | Updated Jul 30, 2013 7:49 AM CDT

(Newser) – All 15 night shift workers reported missing have been accounted for after a series of huge explosions at a plant that refills gas grill propane tanks in central Florida. A spokesman for the sheriff's office in Tavares says workers fled the scene—some driving themselves to the hospital—after the explosions at the Blue Rhino propane plant, the AP reports. At least seven people injured by the blasts are being treated in local hospitals. Human error and equipment failure are likely to blame for the explosion, fire officials tell CNN.

Witnesses described seeing a huge fireball as blasts shook the plant, blowing its roof off. Explosions could still be heard more than 90 minutes after the first took place around 11pm, as trucks parked at the plant with loads of propane cylinders blew up. "We knew right away it was the plant," says a neighbor who likened the blasts to July 4th fireworks. "After that, it was just sort of panic." A one-mile evacuation zone was set up around the plant. Officials say there were more than 50,000 cylinders at the plant, holding around a million pounds of propane.

This frame grab provided by WKMG TV shows the fire at the Blue Rhino plant in Tavares City, Florida.
This frame grab provided by WKMG TV shows the fire at the Blue Rhino plant in Tavares City, Florida.   (AP Photo/WKMG TV)
This frame grab provided by WKMG TV shows the fire at the Blue Rhino plant in Tavares City, Fla Tuesday July 30, 2013.
This frame grab provided by WKMG TV shows the fire at the Blue Rhino plant in Tavares City, Fla Tuesday July 30, 2013.   (AP Photo/WKMG TV)
Law enforcement officers arrive at a command post near the site of an explosion at a propane gas company Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.
Law enforcement officers arrive at a command post near the site of an explosion at a propane gas company Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.   (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Firefighters stand by near the scene of an explosion at a propane gas company Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.
Firefighters stand by near the scene of an explosion at a propane gas company Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.   (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Fire crews pour water on a fire after an explosion at the Blue Rhino propane gas company Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.
Fire crews pour water on a fire after an explosion at the Blue Rhino propane gas company Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.   (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Fire crews pour water on a fire after an explosion at a propane gas company Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.
Fire crews pour water on a fire after an explosion at a propane gas company Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.   (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Fire crews pour water on a fire after an explosion at the Blue Rhino propane gas company Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.
Fire crews pour water on a fire after an explosion at the Blue Rhino propane gas company Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.   (AP Photo/John Raoux)
This frame grab from an AP video shows flames from a gas plant explosion in Tavares City, Fla., Monday, July 29, 2013.
This frame grab from an AP video shows flames from a gas plant explosion in Tavares City, Fla., Monday, July 29, 2013.   (AP Photo)
Map locates Tavares, Fla., where a propane gas plant exploded.
Map locates Tavares, Fla., where a propane gas plant exploded.   (Associated Press)
The blasts are believed to have caused multiple deaths and injuries.
The blasts are believed to have caused multiple deaths and injuries.   (WeAreTheSavageNation)
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