Three remain hospitalized following Ascension plant accidents

Three people remain hospitalized in Baton Rouge from two industrial accidents in Ascension Parish last week that killed three and injured 108, hospital officials confirmed Monday.

Two men remained Monday in hospitals after the Williams Olefins explosion 8:37 a.m. Thursday near the Geismar plant’s propylene fractionation unit.

One was in fair condition at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center while another was in good condition at Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s burn unit, hospital spokeswomen said.

Zachary C. “Zach” Green, 29, of Hammond, and Scott Thrower, 47, of St. Amant, were killed in the explosion and fire or succumbed to their injuries later. Company officials have said 101 other people were injured.

One person also remains at Our Lady of the Lake in fair condition after a rupture at the CF Industries nitrogen complex near Donaldsonville on Friday, said Kelly Zimmerman, hospital spokeswoman.

Seven people were injured in that incident, which claimed the life of Ronald “Rocky” Morris Jr., 55, of Belle Rose.

Williams Olefins officials said Monday they have set up command centers at the company’s Tulsa, Okla., headquarters and at the Geismar plant as they work with investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

The federal agencies are probing the cause of the deadly blast, which occurred while the company was expanding its operations.

The center in Tulsa is working with the unified command center in Geismar on plans to restore power and basic services to the plant, company officials said.

The cause of the explosion and extent of damage remain unknown at the 25-acre Williams Olefins site off La. 30 and La. 3115 in Geismar, company officials said.

Near Donaldsonville, the CF Industries rupture occurred between 6 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Friday near the Ammonia 3 unit as a tanker truck was off-loading nitrogen. Blythe Lamonica, a CF Industries spokeswoman, said the unit is one of five at the plant. It produces 1,600 tons of product daily but was undergoing a turnaround that has since been halted.

During a “turnaround,” equipment is shut and long-term maintenance is conducted.

Lamonica said nitrogen was being fed by hose into a header near the Ammonia 3 unit. That header suffered a “catastrophic failure” for reasons yet to be determined, though no fire or off-site impact occurred, Louisiana State Police have said.

A header is temporary equipment that receives nitrogen from the tanker truck. The header then distributes that nitrogen into the plant through seven to eight other hoses, Lamonica said.

Nitrogen is an inert gas constituting 78 percent of the atmosphere and was being used Friday for the turnaround.

The other parts of the plant remain in operation, Lamonica said.

Editors Note: This story was changed June 18, 2013, to correctly identify the location of the CF Industries plant and Williams Olefins plant sites.