After four people died Saturday in a chemical plant leak, details of heroism and tragedy are coming to light. Production operator Robert Tisnado, 38, hurried to help a colleague he heard calling for help at the DuPont plant in La Porte, Texas; crew supervisor Wade Baker, 60, was behind him. Neither was wearing a protective mask when they encountered the toxic chemical methyl mercaptan, the Houston Chronicle reports, based on details provided to the Tisnado family. Another member of that family, Robert's brother, Gilbert, 48, next sought to help. He wore a gas mask and tried to put one on his brother, to no avail. All four were killed, probably before 7am Saturday, other plant personnel said. The plant told police of "unresponsive individuals" half an hour before that, but none were hospitalized, the Chronicle notes.
Medical examiners weren't equipped to enter the area until later, and the family wasn't informed until 2pm. The Tisnados' father, also named Gilbert, guessed what was going on before that. "We were a really close family. We called each other all the time. Before and after work," he notes. "When we didn't get a call or responses on their phones, we assumed the worst." He works at a plant, too, and calls the situation "a risk we all take. … If you go work at a plant, you never know if you are going to come back home." Meanwhile, an investigation into what exactly happened at the plant is underway. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has cited the plant "at least two dozen times" in five years over state law violations, including failure to conduct safety inspections, the Texas Tribune reports; the plant was also fined for a leak in 2009. (Read more DuPont stories.)