Tulsa-based Williams Companies releases statement following Louisiana plant explosion

GEISMAR, La. - A Thursday morning explosion and fire at a Louisiana chemical plant Thursday killed one person and injured dozens more, Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

The explosion took place at Williams Chemical Plant in Ascension Parish, Louisiana State Police said, and a fire after the explosion was contained and extinguished later in the day.

Late Thursday, Williams Companies released a statement:

"We are grieving for the loss of Zack (Green) who was part of our Williams Community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time of sorrow. We also remain deeply concerned about Williams' personnel and contractors who sustained injuries, some quite serious," said Alan Armstrong, Williams' President and CEO.

"We are extremely appreciative of the prompt and efficient actions by local and state law enforcement and emergency responders for their assistance in this difficult time. We are focusing all necessary resources on assisting those impacted and determining the cause of the explosion," Armstrong went on to say.

Seventy-three people were taken to local hospitals, and a total of 300 workers evacuated, Jindal said. Ten people remained in a safe room at the plant, he said.

The man who died, 29-year-old Zachary Green was an operator at the plant.

A two-mile radius has been set up around the area but there is no residential impact, Sadifer said. A chemical was being burned off, but there is no immediate threat to the public and it is not being released into the air, he said.

"The chemicals are burning off," Sgt. J.B. Slaton of the Louisiana State Police told NBC News affiliate WVLA. "They're not leaving a compound, they're not going into the air, they're burning off."

The site of the explosion remained an "active scene," Lester Kenyon, a public information officer for Ascension Parish, told NBC News. He said the parish's emergency operations center is in "partial activation" as personnel from local police and fire departments, Homeland Security, and the Ascension Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness are on scene.

Baton Rouge General Medical Center said it had received seven victims after the explosion, and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales received eight more patients. Eleven patients were transported to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, two of them in critical condition.

A total of 10 patients were transported from the scene by Arcadian Ambulance Services, the local ambulance company said on Twitter. Six of those patients were transported by air and four by ground transportation.

Baton Rouge General Medical Center said it had received seven victims after the explosion.

The explosion occurred at 8:37am local time, Williams said in a media release on Thursday. Emergency responders were notified and shut-down valves were closed after the explosion, isolating the unit, according to the release.

"The fire is greatly diminished at this time," the company said in the release. "Our emergency-response crews are thoroughly trained to respond to these types of incidents and are diligently performing their work with their first priority being the safety and well-being of people in and around the area."

State police said the fire had been extinguished on Thursday afternoon. A state police Hazmat unit continued a controlled burn. The cause of the fire remained undetermined, said Slaton.

The plant, owned by Williams Companies based in Tulsa, is located in Geismar, La., about 60 miles northwest of New Orleans and 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. The area was described by officials as unincorporated and largely industrial.

"We're continuing to do a head count for every single person who was on site," state police Capt. Doug Cain told WVLA. "Hazmat crews are now going on ground at the site to see what remains."

Fire officials in nearby Gonzales, La., told NBC News that its fire chief and district fire chief are on the scene in Geismar.

The Williams Olefins facility in the town produces about 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of propylene a year, according to the petrochemical company's website.


Comments