Metal Industrial Plant Explosion Kills 1, Injures 13
An explosion at a manufacturing plant near Bedford, Ohio, Monday (Feb. 20) afternoon has resulted in the death of one worker and injured at least 13 others.
The accident occurred at I. Schumann & Co. LLC, a metal business that “recycles and trades a wide variety of scrap and produces brass and bronze alloys in ingot and pellet forms,” according to its website.
Around 2:20 p.m. on Monday, emergency crews were called to the I. Schumann & Co. copper alloy company in Oakwood Village. The blast reportedly shook the ground and scattered debris for a couple of hundred yards, damaging several vehicles, while smoke billowed into the sky in a cloud visible for miles.
The deceased victim has reportedly been identified as Steve Mullins, a 46-year-old maintenance worker at the plant. Thirteen others are being treated at hospitals, two of which were listed at the time in critical condition, for burns and other related injuries.
Oakwood Village Fire Captain Brian DiRocco said he saw quite a few burn victims on the scene, and that at least one person had to be pulled from the rubble before being taken to the hospital. All plant staff have reportedly been accounted for, and the fire was under control with crews mopping up hot spots, DiRocco added.
An employee from a store across the street from the plant told reporters that debris from the blast damaged several cars and parts of the building structure. A beam reportedly flew across the street, and a window at the shop was also blown out.
An explosion tore through an Ohio metals plant, killing at least one person and injuring over a dozen others. The blast sent smoke billowing into the sky that could be seen for miles around the damaged factory https://t.co/nAGMN99Jcn pic.twitter.com/QErDtBqtuN— Reuters (@Reuters) February 21, 2023
The cause of the explosion is under investigation, led by the Ohio State Fire marshall. However, DiRocco said at a press conference Tuesday that it “appears” the incident originated from the plant's “very large furnaces” and molten metal ladles.
The building damage was described as “pretty catastrophic,” with crews unable to access some spots due to safety issues.
“It's the largest fire that I've ever had to handle ... and probably the largest one we've had in Oakwood in a very long time,” DiRocco told reporters.
The nearby Broadview Heights Fire Department has also reported that there is a smell of “burning oil” in surrounding areas, which was likely to be attributed to the fire scene. The Seven Hills Fire Department said they were aware of the haze and smell traveling through their area, as well.
According to reports, the facility was cited in 2019 after an employee suffered third-degree burns and was hospitalized after molten metal splashed on his coveralls. OSHA reported that the employee was not wearing fire-resistant coveralls or an aluminized overcoat at the time.
Additionally, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency sent the company a notice last year outlining 11 violations of the state's hazardous waste laws, including unlawful storage and disposal of hazardous waste and causing hazardous waste to be transported to an unauthorized facility.
I. Schumann & Co. released a statement to local news station WKYC on Monday:
“An explosion of unknown origin struck our Bedford, Ohio facility today, resulting in injuries to employees and significant damage to the facility. Our efforts now are focused on supporting the first responders who came on scene quickly to help our employees.
“The safety and health of our employees is our top priority and we commit to ensuring they receive the medical care they need. We will work alongside investigators in their search for answers as part of our commitment to Northeast Ohio, where we have been operating for more than 100 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with our team members and their families at this difficult time.”
The company was anticipated to release another statement regarding the incident Tuesday evening.