2 workers dead, 1 injured in Barbour County industrial accident at a natural gas odorization facility onwed by Midland Resource Recovery
by Darlene J. Swiger and Jonathan Weaver STAFF WRITERS
PHILIPPI, WV — Two people are dead and one has been hospitalized following an explosion Wednesday at Midland Resource Recovery in Barbour County, according to a preliminary report from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
“Midland Resources was prepping a tank for cleaning using bleach,” DEP spokesman Jake Glance said. “There was a very big explosion. Two were dead on arrival, and one was injured.”
One person was flown to the hospital by medical helicopter following the explosion at 11:07 a.m. Wednesday, a Barbour County 911 official confirmed.
Philippi Volunteer Fire Department Chief David Utt said the injured person was listed in critical condition at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown Wednesday.
“It’s the worst tank explosion I’ve ever been on,” said Utt, who’s been a firefighter for 31 years. “The Philippi Volunteer Fire Department extends our condolences to all that were involved.”
Midland Resource Recovery is an odorant equipment processing facility located at 22550 Barbour County Highway and Arden Road, just outside of Philippi.
Utt said the company has been at the site along U.S. 250/119 for about two years.
Wednesday’s explosion has been classified as a hazardous materials incident by the DEP.
Midland has been serving the natural gas industry since 1996 to provide long-term solutions for decommissioning, treating and removing obsolete odorant injection equipment, according to the company’s website.
Midland provides a wide array of services to keep clients fully compliant with all pertinent regulations and address risks of under-odorization, over-odorization, odor fade, mercaptan vapor escape and mercaptan spill, according to the website.
Mercaptan is a harmless chemical added to odorless natural gas to give it a smell so it can be detected.
The West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, as well as the state Fire Marshal’s Office, were initially contacted.
The medical examiner was called to the scene, and the American Red Cross was notified.
There is no danger to the public, Glance said.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration also is investigating the double fatality. The state Department of Energy is responsible for site clean-up.
“We were notified there were two fatality victims,” OSHA spokeswoman Leni Uddyback-Fortson said. “We are in the process of sending inspectors to the site of the incident.”
OSHA has an open investigation that it has a total of six months to conduct.
“Midland Resource Recovery doesn’t have any OSHA history within the past five years at the West Virginia or Colorado locations,” Uddyback-Fortson said.
Philippi Police Chief Jeff Walters confirmed that Barbour County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Brett Carpenter will be in charge of the investigation.
In addition to Philippi volunteer fire department, Belington volunteer firefighters, the Barbour County Emergency Squad, West Virginia State Police and the Barbour County Sheriffs Department responded to the explosion.
Calls to the Midland Resource Recovery business office went unanswered Wednesday afternoon.
The investigation is continuing, and further information will be released as it becomes available.
UPDATE (5/24/17 at 1:30 p.m.):
Two people died in an explosion at Midland Resource Recovery in Barbour County Wednesday morning, according to preliminary reports from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
DEP officials said preliminary reports indicate that they were cleaning a tank, which may have been empty, at the time of the explosion.
The Barbour County Sheriff's Department also confirmed that two people died and that one person was flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital. Chief Deputy Brett Carpenter said they are not releasing the names of those who died in the explosion pending family notification. One family is reportedly in Canada, he said.
UPDATE (5/24/17 at 12 p.m.):
Barbour County 911 officials confirmed there was an explosion at Midland Resource Recovery, a gas company, on Wednesday.
One person was transported via HealthNet, 911 officials said.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration, a HAZMAT team, and the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office were all called to the scene.
Family members are being staged across the road from the facility.
According to the company's website, they're the leading North American expert in natural gas odorization and gas odorants. In addition to the company's Barbour County facility, they also have operations in Ontario, Canada.
We have a reporter on scene. Stay with 12 News for updates.
According to Harrison County 911 officials, there was a commercial fire at Midland Resource Recovery off of Route 250/119 in Barbour County at approximately 11 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Harrison County fire departments were called to aid on scene but have since been called back.