Four people dead after spill at DuPont facility in La Porte

By Gianna Caserta - Reporter , Anoushah Rasta - Anchor/Reporter , Click2Houston.com Staff

LA PORTE, Texas - A chemical leak at the Dupont Facility in La Porte killed four workers and sent another to the hospital Saturday, authorities said.

Families of the deceased have been notified, but DuPont is not releasing the names of the employees at this time.

If you stepped outside Saturday morning, you probably smelled something a little funky.

The DuPont facility in La Porte called for emergency crews around 4 a.m. Saturday after a chemical spill involving methyl mercaptan at the Crop Protection Unit.

"We will continue to cooperate with all the local authorities, and make sure that we investigate this fully and we will find the cause of this, at this point, we don't know why this happened," plant manager Randy Clements said. "I think what I would really rather focus on is the employees, and what we have today is a tragic situation and getting into the very details of the chemistry is probably not the appropriate time."

Jeff Suggs, emergency management coordinator with the city of La Porte, said methyl mercaptan is used to odorize natural gas for safety purposes and left behind an odor that smells like fish or rotten eggs.

"Not real sure why it happened, not real sure how much was released," said Suggs.

Both Suggs and the Dupont facility insisted the fumes from the leak that made it into the air were not dangerous to the public but certainly deadly from close-range.

"We know that something wrong happened here today," said Aaron Woods, a spokesperson for Dupont.

"We are used to funny smells around here, especially when the wind is out of the north," La Porte resident Dudley Crittendon said. "We thought something had died in the house. We started burning candles but it didn't go away."

The chemical was contained by 6 a.m. DuPont released a statement saying four of their employees were directly exposed to the chemical and one of them had to be transported to Bayshore Hospital for treatment. At the time of the spill, one of those four employees was unaccounted for.

Family members confirmed the names of two of the victims with Local 2 -- they are Robert and Gilbert Tisnado, who were also brothers.

The fifth employee taken to Bayshore Hospital is expected to make a full recovery.

The city of La Porte said while the odor did make it out of the facility, it is not hazardous for the community. 

One woman who works at a nearby convenience store says people have been coming in all morning and complaining about the smell.

"One man complaining about it and others talking about it, there was like five guys talking about it," she said.

The Harris County Medical Examiner was at the scene and Harris County Sheriff's Office was assisting with the incident as well.

Several people from Sugar Land, Missouri City and Rosenberg contacted the Local 2 newsroom to report a strong odor around 8 a.m. The Sugar Land Police Department believes the smell is also from the spill at the DuPont facility. 

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