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Paint Plant Explosion Kills 1, Injures 8

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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Last week, the Yenkin-Majestic Paints plant in Northeast Columbus experienced an explosion which resulted in one fatality and eight injuries.

The family-owned business is a manufacturer of paints, resins and other coatings. According to reports, the overnight blast was heard and felt for miles.

What Happened

At 12:05 a.m. on Thursday (April 8) morning, Columbus Fire was called to respond to a report of an explosion along Leonard Avenue at the Yenkin-Majestic Paints plant. At the time, about 40 people were working at the plant and as officials arrived, were evacuating the building.

As a result of the explosion, eight plant workers were reported to be injured, but have since been reported to be in stable condition by Columbus Fire. Of the eight, however, Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin said that crews had to rescue two employees that were trapped inside.

“While the fire was still burning, with limited visibility we had rescue crews go in and find the two individuals. It was kind of like they were involved in a car accident. We had to use special tools to pry them out,” said Martin.

The Columbus paint plant that was the site of an explosion and fire early Thursday morning has a history of violations, fires and previous employee death.

Posted by 10TV - WBNS on Thursday, April 8, 2021

By the morning, rescue teams also made the discovery of one deceased plant worker, 44-year-old Wendell Light, who was located partially buried under the rubble. Light was a pressroom supervisor for Yenkin-Majestic Paint.

“Wendell was a good hard-working, honest man. And Wendell's life was his family. He enjoyed spending time with his two daughters and wife," said Light’s cousin, Chris Hembree, who lives about a mile away from the plant. Hembree also reported that the explosion had rocked his home.

A coworker has since set up a GoFundMe account for Light’s family to help pay for any expenses.

Andrew Smith, CEO of Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation, released this statement following the deadly blast, “The Yenkin-Majestic family is deeply saddened today. Early this morning, a serious fire broke out at our manufacturing facility on Leonard Avenue in Columbus. Tragically, one of our colleagues died and eight others suffered injuries that required medical treatment. As a family-owned company, we are focused right now on the family of the deceased, Wendell Light, and the health and well-being of our injured colleagues and their families. Our thoughts are also with our neighbors that were impacted by this incident.

“We are working hand in hand with the Columbus Fire Department, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other government agencies as they investigate. We are committed to uncovering the details behind this tragic accident. The welfare of our employees is of the utmost importance to our family. We are in the process of communicating with all of our colleagues to make sure they are informed and supported in every way needed.”

Yenkin-Majestic is a Process Safety Management site that falls under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for highly hazardous chemicals. Currently, hazmat teams are on the scene to help due to the hazards presented by the materials within the building.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation and an inspection have been opened by OSHA. A compliance officer was on the scene the morning following the blast.

“OSHA compliance officers are at the location and are interviewing the employer, employees and witnesses, to determine if the company was following all OSHA standards and regulations,” said Scott Allen, a U.S. Department of Labor regional director for public affairs and media relations. “OSHA will not have any further information until they have completed their investigation, which, by law, they have 6 months to complete.”

According to records on the regulatory agency's website, Yenkin-Majestic has had five past cases: two in 2011 (one involving the death of another employee), one in 2012, a follow-up in 2014, and one in 2015. However, the Leonard Avenue location has had 24 total violations since 2011, including 15 “serious” violations labeled by OSHA, in which the plant reached a settlement to pay $76,203.

In 2012, the plant was cited for “a cloud containing flammable vapors was released,” which was reportedly caused by a "copolymer reaction" of flammable chemicals when over-pressurization occurred in some equipment. No injuries were reported in that incident.

With the investigation ongoing, state and federal lawmakers representing the Columbus neighborhood are also responding to the incident, saying that its time to discuss whether plants handling dangerous chemicals should be operating so close to residential communities.

“It's a good time to think about placement in relation to residential communities,” said Rep. Dontavius Jarrells (D-Columbus), who also resides close to the plant and felt the explosion shake his apartment. “I don't want any child to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and get badly injured because of a situation like this.”

Congresswoman Joyce Beatty who also reported to have lived by the plant for some 20 years, felt a personal concern to the incident as well. Both Beatty and Jarrells promised conversations in the months ahead about neighborhood and workplace safety.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Explosions; Fatalities; hazardous materials; Hazards; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Manufacturing Plant; NA; North America; OSHA; Safety

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