Accidents July - September 2013

17 July 2013 - Mexico

Guanajuato state, La Soledad. The explosion of gunpowder near the area where the magazines are located on the outskirts of the community of La Soledad, caused fear among the inhabitants and led to the mobilization of units and elements of the Fire Brigade and Civil Protection.

At 11:50, residents of the village reported that one of the magazines that are located in the area had exploded. After ensuring that there were no injuries, authorities met with the owner. Following mobilization of the emergency services, the magazine’s owners tried to hide the facts by claiming that the explosion was heard several miles around, but had occurred elsewhere. Neighbours confirmed that the explosion occurred in front of the magazines.

In response, the owner of the place admitted what had happened, and said they were destroying several rockets that no longer served and that this activity had not been reported to the Department of Defence or any municipal authority. Somewhat alarmed, the neighbours said that the authorities needed to conduct reviews and magazines owners should give notice to the authorities and neighbours when burning outdated rockets, to avoid surprises.

21 July 2013 - Germany

Hessen/Hesse, Kreis Gießen, Alten-Buseck. A major explosion occurred at 07:35 in the western part of Alten-Buseck. Multiple residents informed the police. According to one resident: “The coffee cups clinked and the Sonntagsbrötchen [A species of frog, indigenous to Hessen, Ed.] hopped on the breakfast dishes. In our goldfish pond, the water piled on like a small tsunami.”

All of these unusual events were linked to the big explosion, but the small-scale search for the immediate cause, with the help of the fire brigade, was initially unsuccessful. No explosion, no sonic boom, and no landslide in the nearby quarry were found, and it was only on the Monday morning that employees of a company in the adjoining industrial area discovered an unusual excavation in the field and informed the district municipality. The find: A 15-metre wide and four metres deep crater due to the explosion of a bomb from the Second World War, which had apparently exploded for no reason.

The explosives disposal assumed that it is this was a five-hundred pound bomb, which was equipped with a chemical-mechanical long-time fuse. Gerhard Goossens, head of the explosives disposal section of the Department of the Darmstadt Regional Council, said: “Over time, it may happen that the holder of the igniter just breaks and the bomb explodes.”

2 August 2013 - Canada

Alberta, Mahogany. At about 09:00, police and fire crews were called to Mahogany Bay after a contractor discovered detonation cord in a large piece of decorative granite at the front of a home. Police said the 1,300 kilogram piece of granite had a borehole in it and contained what they believe was some unexploded explosive from manufacturing in a quarry. About a dozen homes were evacuated as a precaution while explosives technicians were called in to assess the situation. Early that evening, police said the explosive was removed from the area and detonated at a safe location.

3 August 2013 - USA

CA, Bakersfield. Cleveland Wrecking Co. The explosive demolition at 06:00 of an old PG&E power plant in Bakersfield left one man with severe injuries and four others with minor injuries. According to the Bakersfield Police Department [BPD], an officer on the eastern perimeter began hearing screams at the time of the explosion. The officer found a 43-year-old man with a traumatic partial amputation of one leg and major injuries to the other leg. The man was treated at the scene, taken to a local hospital then flown to a medical centre in Fresno for further treatment. Two other people suffered minor injuries from shrapnel, the BPD said, and two cars were damaged. The BPD said the safety perimeter around the old plant was designated by the demolition company, and BPD officers were only on scene to provide traffic and crowd control.

One victim said he was standing behind the perimeter when a piece of metal roughly the size of a household door came flying at him and grazed his right leg, leaving his socks and shorts splattered with blood. Another said his girlfriend got sprayed with shrapnel, but was not badly hurt. Several cars were also damaged by the shrapnel.

Pacific Gas and Electric reached an agreement with the city to clean up the property and prepare it for sale. The company hired subcontractors to handle the demolition of the plant’s boiler structures and worked with local authorities to set up a safe perimeter 1,000 feet from the site. Denny Boyles, a company spokesman, said the boiler structure consisted of two towers measuring 140 feet high that supported four 200,000 gallon tanks.

Cleveland Wrecking of Covina, California, the main contractor on the demolition, issued a statement expressing sympathy and vowing a thorough investigation, but declined further comment. Several subcontractors also worked on the project.

On August 4, Herb Duane, reported to be a consultant for hundreds of demolition and implosion [sic] projects around the world, told local media that the safety zone was not large enough, explaining: “When you have a strong force and you’re knocking down steel, it will shoot out much farther than if you did a regular demolition.” However, he went on to say that there is no industry standard for a safety zone, but 1,000 to 1,500 feet from the blast is common, and the size of the zone is decided by the contractor.

4 August 2013 - France

Hérault [34], Sète. About a tonne of shells were found on the beach at Sète. The three shells discovered by tourists on August 4 on the beach were described as “small”. However, on August 6, not far from the first discovery, more than a tonne of the same type of shell was unearthed. EOD technicians secured the area and took away several shells for examination. The are remained secured.

5 August 2013 - France

Pas-de-Calais [62], Leubringhen. A 250kg/500lbs bomb was unearthed in a field near the hamlet of Bainghen, in the commune of Leubringhen. A civilian EOD team was called in and arranged with local authorities to defuse the bomb on August 8.

Traffic was halted on the D249, the Marquise fire department was placed on standby, and a shelter-in-place was ordered within a radius of 600m. The operation started around 09:00 and the bomb was defused by 10:15. The bomb, which contained 65kg of explosive, was taken to a depot at Vimy.

12 August 2013 - Slovakia

Near Spišský Hrhov, Šibenik tunnel. A 39-year-old man died and another five people were injured in an explosion that occurred shortly after 04:30 in the Šibenik tunnel near Spišský Hrhov in eastern Slovakia. The District Mining Authority in Spišská Nová Ves was investigating the accident.

Police corps headquarters in Prešov said that the men, who were working on a tunnel that is to be part of the Jánovce – Jablonov section of the cross-country D1 highway, were overseeing a planned explosion, during which another blast occurred, which caused the soil in the area to slide.

Two injured workers were taken to a hospital in Poprad where they were placed in the trauma ward. The other three injured workers were taken to hospitals in Levoca and Spišská Nová Ves. One seriously injured worker was hospitalised in Spišská Nová Ves, but later had to be transferred to the University Hospital of Louis Pasteur in Košice.

13-14 August 2013 - India

Mumbai/Bombay. On August 18, Defence Minister AK Antony said that preliminary investigations into the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak revealed that the “near-simultaneous” explosions that preceded the fire which engulfed the submarine were possibly caused by the ignition of its armament. While making a statement in the Rajya Sabha, Antony said that the cause of ignition is yet to be established: “Initial assessments indicate that an internal explosion occurred in the forward compartment of the submarine where ordnance was stowed, resulting in further near-simultaneous explosions and major fire on board INS Sindhurakshak.” Antony said that explosion and resultant damage were near instantaneous and 18 naval personnel, including three officers, and 15 sailors inside the submarine “could not evacuate”. He said that visual and forensic examination would throw more light on the possible cause of ignition, but: “This will be possible only after the submarine is afloat and dewatered. A board of inquiry with all relevant specialists has been constituted to investigate the likely causes of accident at the earliest.”

20 August 2013 - Turkey

Central Anatolian province of Kirikkale, Hasandede village. Machinery and Chemical Industry Corporation (MKE). An explosion occurred at a gunpowder depot belonging to the state-owned Machinery and Chemical Industry Corporation (MKE). No deaths were immediately reported, but there were some injuries. Hasandede Mayor Malik Coskun confirmed that there were no reports of deaths. The windows of houses surrounding the site have smashed and a fire broke out in a nearby forest due to the powerful explosion. Kirikkale Deputy Mayor Halil Danaci said the fire was said to have quickly spread over a large area, but did not directly threaten residential areas.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said: “There have been explosions at weapons and ammunition depots in the past. Fortunately, what happened today is something less substantial compared to them. It is not determined whether the fire erupted first and triggered the explosion, or whether the fire started after the explosion. The officials of the factory said there was not much ammunition stored in the depot.”

27 August 2013 - Thailand

Rayong. An aircraft exploded at the military airport at Rayong’s airfield, wounding four artillery officers. One of them was seriously injured with bullet in stomach. The four victims were trying to fix jammed ammunition when the gun’s chamber exploded. The incident happened during the Air Force’s annual training of pilots and artillery.

2 September 2013 - Bhutan

Western district of Haa, Anakha. A powerful explosion at a military arms depot killed at least 11 soldiers in the Kingdom of Bhutan. The incident occurred near the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) centre base in Anakha in the western district of Haa, where soldiers were disposing of old ammunition. Eight soldiers were killed instantly in the explosion, while three more succumbed to their injuries in hospital. About a dozen more soldiers were injured. The dead and injured were members of the bomb disposal squad of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA). The Indian Army maintains a training mission in Bhutan, known as the IMTRAT, responsible for the military training of RBA and Royal Bodyguards.

4 September 2013 - Argentina

Province of Córdoba/Cordoba, Villa María/Maria. A major explosion occurred in the Military Gunpowder and Explosive Factory in Villa María, in the province of Córdoba, killing one person. The explosion occurred at 13:20. Some reports said there are several injured and one factory worker was killed, but there were no official reports. Witnesses told Cordoba’s television channel that the blast occurred in the “dynamite mixing plant”. The explosion was heard in Cordoba’s downtown area, 149 km from the factory, local media reported.

Union sources confirmed that one worker was killed in the blast. The State Workers’ Association of the province named the deceased as Gustavo Cachín, who worked in the plant which produced dynamite. The union sent their condolences to Cachín’s family, while adding that the operator died as a result of “an explosion in his work sector for reasons that have still not been established.”

Located 15 km from the centre of Villa Maria and 150 km from the capital of the province, the military factory is mainly engaged in the loading of munitions, which are then sent to military units.

The first witnesses said that after the explosion the fire spread to pastures until it was extinguished by seven fire-fighting team. As the fire progressed and threatened other magazines located on the ground, the unit was evacuated. The head of government cabinet of Cordoba said around 15:30 that the situation tended to be controlled.

A plant spokesman said the incident involving one of the buildings of the plant, where dynamite is processed, intended for military use and the mining industry, adding: “We know there were workers working at the time of the accident and are now doing work cooling to remove the debris , which blocked a street inside the plant.”

By late afternoon , Military Industries issued a statement on the accident report, signed by the agency’s director, Miguel Toselli and production chief, Major Jose Lucioni. They explained that it was an explosion in “sector 13 Dynamite Plant, which affected an area adjacent to the mixer of the plant , but did not affect it”.

10 September 2013 - China

Guangdong province, Guangzhou/Canton, Baiyun district. At least four people were killed and 36 injured when three explosions occurred around noon in a warehouse in south China’s Guangzhou City. The incident occurred at 11:50 in a roadside storehouse in the Ezhangtan area of Baiyun district when workers were unloading goods from a container truck. Residue of explosives were discovered at the scene. The cause of the accident is under investigation. Rescue workers found the remains of four bodies at the scene. Fire-fighters put out the fire at about 14:30. The warehouse, which covers an area of 14,000 square metres, is mainly used to store shoes.

On September 11, it was reported that the explosions may have been triggered by chemicals being transferred from a container truck to the building, but this had not been confirmed, state media reported.

It was later announced that the death toll had risen to seven after three more bodies were recovered. Three people, including a Jordanian, the owner of the goods, were detained by police. According to the city’s public security bureau, investigation had showed that the explosives were toy pistols, the production and distribution of which is forbidden in China.

On September 12, the death toll rose to eight. Police said the eight dead worked as loaders. The municipal government said in a press release that the explosion was an accident, saying loads of bullets exploded in the truck container, and then the explosion ignited goods in a storehouse room.

On September 13, local police said “supervision loopholes” were behind the explosion. The toy pistol ammunition, packaged under the name “8 shot plastic disc cap”, contained powder made of potassium chlorate and red phosphorus. They are classified as fireworks, and their production and storage should be under strict supervision, according to the police.

The bullets are supposed to generate sound and smoke only. They are not destructive and cannot be used as assault weapons, according to the police.

The accident reminded local residents of another similar explosion in the Huangpu District on March 13, 2008, when eight people were killed. [HInt 08-03a, 080313-01.] That accident was also caused by powder for toy pistols.

The Guangzhou Municipal Administration of Work Safety identified the case as a “responsibility case” after a preliminary investigation, as the owner of the explosives had concealed the nature of the items and put hazardous articles in normal storage. The Zengbao warehouse is in the northwest outskirts of Guangzhou, where a cluster of warehouses, freight depots and wholesale markets is surrounded by densely populated communities. The property belongs to Xijiao Village as a collective asset, and is leased to 84 lessees. A man surnamed Cai working for the owner told state media that many of the tenants are employees of small foreign traders, mostly from the Middle East and Africa.

A woman who works for an Indonesian trader in Zengbao said most of the warehouses there were leased to foreign companies: “The management here is not strict at all. Trucks can come in as long as they tell the entrance guard their warehouse number. Neither the trucks nor the people have been checked.”

10 September 2013 - USA

PA, Jamestown, Greene Township. Combined [Tactical] Systems Inc. OSHA announced that it was investigating a fire at Combined Systems, a Jamestown munitions plant, which caused 12 employees to be taken to UPMC Horizon Hospital in Greenville with breathing problems. The dozen employees inhaled a non-lethal gas that causes irritation to skin or when inhaled. Some employees experienced wheezing, coughing and other pulmonary problems and were taken UPMC Horizon hospital for treatment. Dr. Joseph Noga, of UPMC Horizon, reportedly said: “The symptoms usually go away with exposure to high flow oxygen or de-exposure to the irritant, meaning getting them out of the way where the exposure was or where the smoke was.”

 Jamestown Fire Chief Mike Cadman said the fire broke out at about 17:45 [Other sources said 05:45, Ed.] in the part of the building where gas canisters are made. The small fire was quickly extinguished by a newly installed sprinkler system. Cadman said: “One of the main safety guys out there is a fellow fire chief. They take safety pretty high out there as a company.”

On September 11, Cadman reportedly said that the fire broke out at about 05:45 in the “gas house” where tear gas canisters are made. [Or filled, Ed.] Cadman reportedly said six employees who went to a parking lot – as they are required to do during a fire – were exposed to tear gas fumes when they returned to their work stations in other buildings and were also taken to the hospital. Cadman added: “The smoke and fire put some of the chemical into the air. We believe some doors and windows of the other buildings were open when the employees left and some of the gas made it inside so they were exposed when they went back to work.”

OSHA currently has three open investigations at Combined Systems Inc. This was the fourth fire at the company since November 15, 2011, when a fire destroyed a building on the company’s property. [HInt 11-11a, 111115-02.]

On February 20, 2012, an explosion caused extensive damage to the building but no employee sustained injuries. [HInt 12-02b, 120220-02.]

The last fire at the plant, on April 22, sent one employee to an area hospital via emergency helicopter after an explosion and fire. A cause of that fire has not yet been determined and is currently being investigated by OSHA. [HInt 13-03b, 130422-05.]

12 September - Venezuela

Maracaibo, San Francisco municipality, Manzanillo district. One person was decapitated and two injured in an explosion around 12:40 in a pension [boarding house], used as an illegal centre for reloading ammunition. The headless body of the deceased was reported to have landed on a neighbouring house; the two injured were reported to be unconscious.

It was initially speculated that the explosion was the result of the rupture of a gas cylinder, however, investigators found different calibre ammunition scattered around the area, so troops of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) were called-in to investigate the cause of the incident.

On September 14, it was reported that a total of 2,500 shell casings of various calibres were found scattered in the vicinity of the place where the explosion occurred. Research by the security forces continued. According to state-sanctioned media, the assumptions made by Jesus Vargas, head of CICPC-West, turned out to be true. It was assumed that, with the help of a special machine, found in the rented room located behind liquor tank at ‘The Pineapple’, men recycled caps or shells of different calibres and used them to fill in the tip, known by the technical name of ‘projectile’.

Also, an anonymous source said that the production of ammunition was made for sale to security agencies. He noted that the high cost of the bullets requires entities to seek cheaper sales to acquire them for target practice. He said that 9mm Bs range from 40 to 50, each. It was also suggested that the site did business with the underworld, and that police institutions were the ones who most benefited from the charges.

14 September 2013 - USA

CA, Los Angeles, Sun Valley. Hollywood Industries. The owner of a Sun Valley business that supplies movie studios with live and dummy ammunition was injured in a fire that set off live rounds inside the business, forcing fire-fighters to retreat outside to avoid injury. Katherine Main, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Fire Department, said the 86-year-old owner of Hollywood Industries was in serious condition after being burned in the fire. No fire-fighters were injured and the fire, reported at about 11:20, was extinguished shortly after noon.