Agencies look into plant blast

Federal investigators this weekend began combing through wreckage with hopes of determining exactly what caused the fiery explosion at the Williams Olefins chemical plant in Geismar on Thursday morning that killed two people and injured scores of others.

Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration arrived Friday night to begin the department’s detailed inspection of work orders, work assignments and any other pertinent factors that could have led to the blast, State Police said.

Another investigation team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board led by its Western Regional Office director, Don Holmstrom, also will examine the blast site in hopes of determining what caused the fire, as well as whether the plant was operating under inadequate regulation standards or safety protocols, according to a CSB news release.

Multiple phone calls to CSB spokespeople were not returned as of Saturday night.

The explosion, which required numerous city, parish and state agencies to manage the ensuing chaos, occurred around 8:30 a.m. Thursday and indefinitely shut down operations at the plant, officials said.

Local hospitals reported they have discharged virtually all of the nearly 100 people injured in the blast.

At least three victims from the explosion remained hospitalized as of Saturday afternoon in either fair or good condition, hospital representatives said.

Zachary Green, 29, of Hammond, who joined the company in October, and Scott Thrower, 47, of St. Amant, were both killed by Thursday’s explosion, officials said.

Friends and family of Green gathered Saturday at Ponchatoula High School to take part in a memorial soccer game for Green and others affected by the disaster.

Advocate staff writer
David J. Mitchell contributed to this report.