CROSBY, Texas - Authorities said at least one person was killed Tuesday when isobutylene ignited and exploded at a chemical plant in Crosby.
“It is with great sadness, I stand here before you today mourning the loss of a cherished member of our work family due to the incident at the Crosby facility today,” said John Foley, CEO and President of KMCO. “Our hearts go out to them and their loved ones and we are providing the family and employees the support during this difficult time.”
The fire started about 11 a.m. at the KMCO plant on Ramsey Road at Crosby Dayton Road and was extinguished around 5 p.m. On Tuesday night, sections around the plant remained blocked off to traffic.
Officials said the fire spread from a holding tank and spread to a warehouse filled with "solid goods."
During Tuesday’s media conference with KMCO, Pilar Davis, an operations specialist for the company said she didn’t want to speculate what chemicals were inside the warehouse because she did not have the list at the time.
“We have provided that information to the required regulatory agencies,” explained Davis.
It's not clear how many employees were on site at the time of the explosion.
KMCO said the they regularly perform safety drills at the facility and claim none of its emergency evacuation points were blocked due to the incident.
“Our employees have reported that there were no blocks at any of our exits so people have chosen to take other routes , did so on their own choice,” said Davis. “We have safety and compliance as a primary concern at our facility , we routinely do drills and actively work to ensure that our employees are educated and have information to make a decision.”
When asked when their last drill was, Davis said she didn’t want to “speculate” because she didn’t have the information in front of her, but said they had a safety drill planned for this Friday.
The company also said it didn’t want to speculate on what exactly led up to the fire.
“The wellbeing of our people , our neighbors, the environment, are our top priorities,” said Foley. “At the moment, no one knows with certainty what happened and won’t speculate.”
A photo shared with KPRC showed a large plume of black smoke rising from behind a line of trees. The person who took the picture said they heard a loud boom in the area. Other people in the area reported that the blast shook their homes.
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. He said a transfer line ignited and a tank caught fire, which spread to a nearby building that contains dry chemicals.
Officials at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said in a tweet that personnel have been dispatched to the area and that local authorities have begun assessing environmental concerns.
Environmental Protection Agency officials said 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 the fatality, two people were injured in the fire. The injured have been taken to area hospitals, but their conditions were not released.
Harris County deputies said a shelter-in-place order was in effect for everyone within a one-mile radius of the plant. The order was lifted about 3:15 p.m.
According to the company's website, the plant manufactures products such as antifreeze and brake fluid.
John Foley, president and CEO of KMCO, issued the following statement about the fire:
“There was an incident resulting in an ignition and fire today April (2), 2019, at KMCO, LLC in Crosby, Texas. We are deeply saddened to confirm at this time that there have been injuries and one fatality. Those injured have been transported for medical treatment. Our hearts and prayers go out to the individuals involved, as well as our first responders, employees and our community.
“We have activated the company’s emergency response team and incident command center. We are working with local first responders to extinguish the fire. We will give another update as additional information becomes available.
“We apologize for any inconvenience to residents in the vicinity. The wellbeing of our people, neighbors and the environment remain our top priorities.”
Shelter-in-place orders for Crosby Independent School District, Channelview Independent School District and Sheldon Independent School District have been lifted.
Galena Park Independent School District officials said all outdoor activities were canceled Tuesday and the AC system was shut down.
Crosby ISD has also shut down the AC system at schools in the area as a precaution.
Houston Independent School District officials said that outdoor activities have been canceled at all campuses in the east and north areas of the district. A full list of schools can be found here. Baseball games at Cowart Stadium have also been canceled. The soccer playoff match of Furr vs. Stafford will be relocated to Dyer Stadium, 2020 Mangum Road, 77092.
Programming note: Due to the live on-air coverage of this story, Tuesday's episode of "Days of our Lives" will be aired at 2:33 a.m. Wednesday.
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