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Authorities investigating explosion at Tonawanda Dupont plant

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WBFO News photo by Joyce Kryszak
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Lieutenant Nicholas Bado with the Town of Tonawanda Police

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-934188.mp3

Tonawanda, NY – Local, state and federal authorities are investigating the cause of an explosion Tuesday at the Dupont chemical plant on River Road in Tonawanda that claimed the life of one man and sent another man to the hospital. The names of the victims were not released.

Dupont officials said the explosion occurred in a free-standing, empty tank outside the plant at about 10:45 A.M. The man who was killed and the injured man both worked for Mollenberg-Betz, a mechanical contractor. The company was hired to do repairs, possibly welding, on the tank.

Police and several fire companies responded to the explosion and contained the fire. Lieutenant Nicholas Bado with the Town of Tonawanda Police said there was no hazard to the public.

"At no time was there any risk of any kind of contamination to the air the surrounding population, whether it be the motoring public, the people in their homes or schools," said Bado.

However, people nearby did hear the explosion and were concerned. Nicholas Peloquin is a meter reader for National Fuel who was about three quarters of a mile away when the tank exploded.

"I was outside and I heard a bang, kind of like if someone...I figured it was maybe like a garbage truck that dropped a dumpster. It sounded like something fell, really loud," said Peloquin.

But Peloquin said it also ocurred to him it could be something more serious involving Dupont or another nearby plant.

"Yeah, because I was near the plants and there are a lot of them over there," said Peloquin.

Because of the proximity of Dupont and other plants in the area, a coordinated emergency response was ready when the explosion occurred. Lietenant Bado said it is the first incident of its kind of which he is aware.

Police and Dupont officials are both conducting investigations to determine the exact cause of the explosion. State and federal officials, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration also will investigate.

Bado said they want to rule out any criminal involvement.

"That will uncover exactly what procedures were being followed - make sure everything was being done right and this was just an accident. And really at the end of the day I think that's what will come out, that this was just a terrible accident," said Bado.

Bado said because it was a chemical plant incident Homeland Security also was contacted.