Illiopolis, IL Plastics Plant Explosion, Apr 2004

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FOUR ARE KILLED IN EXPLOSION AT ILLINOIS PLANT.

Illiopolis, Ill., April 24 - An explosion at a plastics manufacturing plant jolted this central Illinois village late on Friday, killing four workers, critically injuring two others and forcing the evacuation of the entire community.
The blast demolished 50 to 75 percent of the Formosa Plastics plant and rattled the windows and walls of houses more than a mile away.
"I'm not a war veteran, but that is the loudest explosion I've ever heard in my life," said the mayor of Illiopolis, Allen Brickey, who lives less than two miles from the plant.
Dozens of firefighters were still working Saturday evening to put out fires at the plant, about 25 miles east of Springfield.
Workers were mixing vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate when an explosion occurred, followed by one or two other blasts, the Sangamon County sheriff, Neil Williamson, said. Eighteen workers were in the plant.
Four injured workers were admitted to Memorial Medical Center at Springfield. Four others were treated for smoke inhalation at other hospitals.
Susan Boone, the Sangamon County Coroner, identified those killed as:
JOSEPH MACHALEK, 50.
LARRY GRAVES, 47.
and LINDA HANCOCK, 56, all of Decatur;
and GLENN LYMAN, 49, of Cornland.
Illiopolis' roughly 1,000 residents
were evacuated after the explosion because of hazardous fumes created by burning chemicals. All but about 30 residents were allowed back home by this afternoon.
When vinyl chloride burns it emits hydrochloric acid, said Rich D'Elia
a battalion chief with the Springfield Fire Department who was the commander on the scene. Mr. D'Elia said, however, that preliminary tests indicated that the air was safe.
The plant manager, Roe Vadas, said the cause of the explosion was unknown. Investigators from the federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and the plant's corporate parent, Formosa Plastics Corp. U.S.A., were traveling to the scene.
The plant, with about 135 workers, makes PVC resins that are used in vinyl flooring, traffic cones and carpet backing, said Rob Thibault, a Formosa Plastics spokesman.
A 20-mile section of Interstate 72 was closed for about six hours after the explosion.

New York Times New York 2004-04-25