One injured following explosion at Michigan welding plant

Tank malfunction reportedly to blame for incident


MARYSVILLE, Mich. --

Fire crews extinguished a blaze at a welding supply company in Marysville Monday after a series of explosions rocked the nearby neighborhood and injured a worker.

The first explosion at the South Park Welding Supplies LLC plant at 50 Gratiot Blvd. near the Port Huron and Marysville city line broke out around 8:20 a.m. when a worker removed a valve from a settling tank.

The company said the tank malfunctioned and that's what caused the explosion.

Gary Hall, 48, was transferred to a burn unit at the Detroit Receiving Hospital after suffering burns to his head, upper body, hands and arms. At last check, he was listed in good condition.

Hall's niece, Kimberly Kelly, told Local 4 that he is doing well and that they are hoping that he will be released by the end of the night Monday.

"He was out joking around. He is doing alright other than being burned," said Kelly.

Thick plumes of black smoke filled the air and smaller explosions quickly followed and rattled the neighborhood, sending pieces of metal flying through the air.

Keith Hatten went outside of his nearby home to see what was going on and said his family member was almost hit by the flying shrapnel.

"We come over and we were watching the smoke and all of a sudden another one of the cylinders blew up and shrapnel came flying over the top of the houses. I had to pull my mother-in-law up over the overhang because a piece landed just a few feet from us," said Hatten.

Stephanie Darczy's family owns South Park Welding Supplies LLC and she works inside of the 85-year-old plant alongside Hall.

Darczy said that being late Monday morning may have saved her life.

"I would have been in there right next to him doing some painting while he was doing his testing," said Darczy.

About 15 to 20 nearby residents, Cleveland Elementary School and the Grant Education Center, along with some nearby businesses, were ordered to evacuate the area. Authorities told others to stay inside and close the windows because of the potential for airborne chemicals.

Marysville Fire Chief Thomas Konik said hazmat teams surveyed the area for several hours after the blast and determined the air quality around the fire did not endanger the residents and everyone was allowed to return to their homes.

"We did issue an advisory through the media to have people in the neighbored stay indoors and keep their windows shut, but at this time we have no reports of any chemicals leaving the site," said Konik.

The fire, which caused the plant's roof to collapse, raged for about two hours before firefighters were able to bring it under control, said firefighters. Gratiot Boulevard reopened after the fire was put out.

A St. Clair County hazardous materials team and fire investigators continue to survey the plant.

South Park Welding Supplies has been in business since 1924 and owns businesses in Romeo, Chesterfield and Sandusky, according to its Web site.

The company sells and services equipment used for welding. It also specializes in acetylene requalification of cylinders, all gases used for welding and cutting, helium for balloons and beverage CO2.

Local 4 has learned that the company has never had any safety or health violations in the past.

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