CROSBY, Texas – Family and friends of James Earl Mangum, nicknamed Bubba, confirmed that he died Tuesday morning in an explosion at a chemical plant in Crosby.
The fire started at the KMCO plant on Ramsey Road at Crosby Dayton Road around 11 a.m. and was extinguished around 5 p.m.
“If you never met Bubba, you missed out,” said Kelvin Burks, the interim police chief in Daisetta who also raised Mangum since high school after Mangum’s dad died. “He was definitely a joy to be around.”
KMCO officials said the fire was sparked by isobutylene, a colorless gas with a faint petroleum-like odor, then fueled by ethanol and ethyl acrylate. A transfer line ignited and a tank caught fire, which spread to a nearby building that contains dry chemicals, officials said.
Mangum, 27, graduated from Sam Houston State University and worked at a chemical plant in Liberty before joining KMCO in Crosby a few years ago.
Burks said Mangum was promoted at KMCO two weeks ago, and from what he’s heard, Mangum may have been trying to stop the reported leak when the explosion happened.
"It sounds to me like he was trying to save his friends, his coworkers,” Burkes said.
Mangum’s family and friends in Daiesetta are devastated.
“Not seeing him come home every day. Knowing that he will never come home and knowing that all of us as his family will never get to see the bubbly Bubba ever again,” Burks said.
Environmental Protection Agency officials said that air quality is being monitored from both the air and the ground, and that no toxic levels of gas have been detected.
In addition to Mangum's death, two others were injured in the fire. They were taken to area hospitals in unknown conditions.
According to the company's website, the plant manufactures products such as antifreeze and brake fluid.
KMCO released a statement Wednesday about Mangum.
"The entire KMCO team continues to mourn the loss of our friend and colleague, James Earl Mangum, or ‘Bubba’ as he was fondly known at the plant," KMCO CEO John Foley said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as well as his two coworkers who remain in intensive care at area hospitals."