Same Company in Florida Plant Explosion Has Ties To West Michigan

Posted at 12:06 AM, Jul 31, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-31 08:07:53-04

LOWELL, Mich. — The same company that owned a facility that exploded in Florida also owns a propane distribution business in Lowell.

All employees working at a Blue Rhino propane tank refilling plant in central Florida are accounted for following a fire and multiple explosions, said Lt. John Harrell, a spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff’s office.

That fire and explosion occurred in central Florida at a facility that was selling Blue Rhino propane tanks for gas grills.

The refilling plant exploded early in the week.

“It looked like fireworks, but on the other side of the trees,” said an emergency worker at the scene.

“There were propane cylinders stored in various parts of the property, 53,000 20 lb cylinders,” said one fire official.

Homes were evacuated in a half mile radius around the plant and Ferrellgas spokesperson Scott Brockelmeyer said many employees were injured.

Thankfully, none of those injuries were fatal as of Tuesday.

“We’re part of an industry that takes safety very seriously,” said Brockelmeyer.

We talked to Brockelmeyer a bit more about whether or not catastrophe could happen in West Michigan.

He said it’s rare to have an explosion such as the one at Blue Rhino. “Thankfully, it’s a very uncommon occurrence in our industry.”

He assured us all employees in West Michigan have received extensive training. “We have monthly safety meetings where our employees receive refresher training on various different topics.”

In the past ten years, OSHA has cited two Ferrell Gas facilities in Michigan for violations, including one in Kimball in 2007 and one listed as “serious” in Rochester, Mich., in 2006.

Brockelmeyer said the company is cooperating with investigators, hoping to find out what happened in the 2013 incident before deciding whether or not things need to change.

“We’re as anxious as anyone to understand what did occur,” he said.