An explosion tore through an Ohio metals plant on Monday (February 20), scattering molten metal and debris that rained down on neighbouring buildings and injuring at least 14 people, mostly with burns, officials and witnesses said.
The blast sent smoke billowing into the sky that could be seen for miles around the damaged factory about 15 miles (24 kilometres) southeast of Cleveland.
The explosion of unknown origin at the I. Schumann & Co. metals plant in Bedford drew fire departments from throughout northeast Ohio.
Oakwood Fire Department Captain Brian DiRocco addressed the media on scene, saying 13 people were taken to hospital, many of them with burn wounds, and one more was being treated on site.
At least one was in critical condition, and one was pulled from the debris. All of those injured were on site, the falling debris having spared those at neighbouring businesses, DiRocco said.
“The people were mostly walking wounded,” DiRocco said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of people that work here that were in shock.”
DiRocco said he had inspected the site before and found it a safe place “except for the fact that it’s a foundry. You are dealing with molten metal, so there’s always an inherent danger.”
The cause was unknown, and damage to the plant was “significant,” the company said.
“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,” I. Schumann and Co., which produces copper, brass and bronze alloys, said in a statement.
Matthew Wiggins, owner of the neighbouring business Rose Colored Gaming, told WOIO he heard a large explosion and that “within a second or two, it sounded like large amounts of debris were hitting the roof.”
“Things were falling off the walls, falling off shelves. We went out front and there was like smouldering rocks and molten metal in the yard. Tons and tons of smoke. Fire billowing out of the building across the street,” Wiggins said.
Another witness, Joe Sarconi, said a brick wall enclosing the property was obliterated.
“A beam flew across the street. That other beam flew across the street and blew out our window,” Sarconi said. “Exciting, but horrible.”
The explosion was about 70 miles (112 km) northwest of East Palestine, Ohio, where earlier this month a train loaded with toxic chemicals derailed, causing a fire that sent a cloud of smoke over the town and forced thousands of people to evacuate.