Explosions Engulf Florida Propane Plant

Lake County Sheriff Department Lieutenant John Herrell answers questions about the explosion at the Blue Rhino propane plant in Tavares on July 30, 2013.

Fifteen people were not immediately accounted for following multiple explosions and a fire at a propane tank refilling plant in central Florida, said John Harrell, a spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff's office. But by 2:00a.m., all of the plant's employees were accounted for.

Seven people were taken to regional hospitals, he said. All of the injured were workers at the Blue Rhino plant. There were no reported injuries in the surrounding areas.

An evacuation area of half a mile has been extended around the plant. The nearest homes are about three-quarters of a mile away, according to Harrell.


The first explosions began a little before 11 p.m. Monday at Blue Rhino, 300 County Road 448 and lasted for more than half an hour. The blasts began again about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday in tractor-trailers loaded with pallets of propane tanks, said Richard Keith.
The first blasts happened inside the plant, blowing the roof off, Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders said. After the second round, Tavares Fire Chief Richard Keith pulled his firefighters out for fear that they would be injured.

Five medical helicopters landed at LakeTech Institute of Public Safety, according to public-safety scanner transmissions. They took patients to hospitals in Lakeland, Ocala, Tampa and Orlando, according to transmissions just after midnight.

Orlando Regional Medical Center was treating two men for burns, a hospital spokeswoman said. They were in critical condition.

The Lake County Medical Examiner also was notified.

When the second round of explosions began close to midnight, and the fire spread to another part of the plant, Herrell said, fire officials had to pull their crews back a bit.

The giant flames had subsided a bit by 1 a.m., when Herrell met with reporters about a mile from the plant.

"At this point, the fire personnel are doing what they can...their main concern is containing this fire, containing this scene," Herrell said, adding that fire officials believed the fire was "contained" shortly after 1 a.m.

Family members of workers were encouraged to go to the Lake Tech Institute of Public Safety on Lane Park Cutoff in Tavares.

A gas plant burns after explosions in Tavares, Florida.


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