Bainbridge Chemical Plant Explosion Victim Identified

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UPDATER By: Alicia Turner
August 20, 2015 6:21 pm

BAINBRIDGE, Ga - Andrew Rodgers is back home after a tank that sits across the street from his home exploded. He told Eyewitness News, he knew there was always a chance.

"Expecting it to happen? No, but we knew it could," Rodgers explained.

It all happened at the Liquid Transfer Terminal in Bainbridge, Georgia, just before noon Wednesday. Hours later thick brown smoke was coming from the tank. It was vapors of a chemical known as sodium hydrosulfide. The toxic smoke from the fire made it unsafe for those living in the area to go home.

"I was hot, tired, dirty and hungry. I stayed like that for most of the afternoon," said Rodgers.

Rodgers home was one of nearly two dozen evacuated for the evening. They all received assistance from the Salvation Army.

"It wasn’t much but, they did feed me and gave me a place to stay. I was grateful for that," said Rodgers.

Investigators say 35-year-old Christopher Coker was welding on top of the tank doing repairs when it exploded. He was killed instantly

After the explosion the top of this tank completely flipped over. That made it difficult for crews to get under the top and completely extinguish the fire. Crews were on scene until after 7 Wednesday night, to get all of the flames out. Doyle Welch of Bainbridge Public Safety, said that completely depleted their resources.

"We used 1,600 gallons of foam concentrate throughout the afternoon yesterday to completely extinguish the fire. It took three attacks we performed to have it fully extinguished,” said Welch.

Welch described it as a sight the city has never seen.

"Nothing to that magnitude, of that explosion on any of our tank farms,” said Welch.

OSHA is now investigating the explosion. Liquid transfer has also sent in emergency supplies to help the county and city.

Updated By: WCTV Eyewitness News

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. -- The City of Bainbridge has released the identity of the man killed in an explosion at a chemical plant Wednesday and also says that four firefighters required medical treatment from battling the blaze.

Christopher Coker, 35, of Bainbridge was killed when a tank holding sodium hydrosulfided exploded Wednesday. Coker was the assistant manager at Liquid Transfer Terminals.

The City of Bainbridge also says four firefighters required medical treatment following the explosion due to intense heat from the fire, fumes from the burning chemicals and smoke.

All four firefighters have been treated and released.

Between 15 and 20 homes were evacuated as a result of the explosion and burning chemicals. The Environment Protection Agency has since given approval for residents to return home following the evacuation.

The Salvation Army provided rooms at the Howard Johnson hotel in Bainbridge for displaced residents affected by Wednesday's explosion. Businesses and homes within a half mile radius of the explosion were evacuated. Schools were also placed on lockdown Wednesday afternoon as a safety precaution.

The fire was extinguished Wednesday night after burning for hours.

UPDATE by: James Buechele
11:15 p.m.

From work, Mattie Perkins could see the thick black smoke billowing through the skies of Bainbridge, GA Wednesday afternoon.

"And everyone was talking' about somewhere it happened downtown and I said, 'No I don't think so,'" said Perkins.

Little did she know, the flames were just hundreds of feet from the home she's lived in for 20 years. Dozens of firefighters from stations across south Georgia were called to the Liquid Transfer plant just south of Highway 84. When the chemical sodium hydrosulfide burns, it leaves a brown smoke.

"The air could be effected and it could be at a level that would not be safe for the residents in the immediate area," said Julie Harris, City of Bainbridge director of community affairs.

About 15 to 20 homes were evacuated. Residents living nearby were put up in a local hotel for free thanks to the Red Cross. As Perkins came home to get some essentials for Thursday, she says she's concerned moving forward.

"You know a plant this close, a plant shouldn't be this close to all these houses over here no way."

By: Alicia Turner
August 19, 2015 - 7 p.m.

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. -- Some residents in Bainbridge will not be able to stay at their homes tonight. It all comes after a huge chemical tank explosion in Bainbridge Wednesday morning that killed a worker and forced residents to evacuate.

The blast happened around 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday at the Liquid Transfer plant on Dickerson Street. A half-mile radius surrounding the plant was evacuated as crews battled the fire.

Bainbridge Public Safety confirms that the worker who was killed was on top of the tank welding, making repairs. At this time, the man's identity has not been released.

The tanks hold one million gallons of sodium hydrosulfide and can be toxic if inhaled. The chemical is used in paper pulping, manufacturing dyes, and removing hair from animal hides. The chemical also has the potential to release hydrogen sulfide, which is very poisonous, corrosive and explosive.

It took crews from multiple counties more than three hours to get the fire contained.

Right next to the tank are four other tanks with toxic chemicals that crews had to keep cool to prevent a secondary explosion.

In addition to residents being evacuated, local elementary schools were placed on lockdown and Spring Creek Road was shut down.

A man that works at a local business was doing an oil change when he first heard the explosion.

"I was sitting up there and I kind of jumped back. It rattled me a little bit, it was pretty scary. It was pretty scary because it's literally two blocks down the road from where we are, but it was pretty bad," said David Smith.

Bainbridge Public Safety is allowing evacuated residents to return to their homes only to gather personal items, but they will be spending the night at a nearby hotel out of the evacuation zone.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
August 19, 2015

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. -- Crews remain on the scene of a chemical tank explosion and fire in Bainbridge.

Bainbridge Public Safety says the tank exploded at the Liquid Transfer plant on Dickerson St. around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

One person was killed in the explosion. Authorities say the person worked at the plant and was welding on top of the tank when the explosion occurred.

Authorities say one million-gallon chemical tank was holding sodium hydrosulfide liquid solution.

Authorities at the scene tell WCTV they will have to let the fire burn itself out. They say right now a layer of carbon is burning, but underneath is the harmful chemical.

Everyone within a half mile radius has been evacuated according to Georgia State Patrol, and all elementary schools in Bainbridge and Decatur County are on lockdown as a precaution while the tank burns.

Bainbridge Public Safety is asking the public to stay out of the area until the fire is out of control.

WCTV is at the scene and plans continuing coverage throughout the afternoon and evening.

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