One critically injured man was fighting for his life today while the cause of a fiery propane explosion at Atlas Castings & Technology on Saturday remained under investigation.
Charles McDonald, 64, remained in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, hospital officials said today.
McDonald, a driver for IXL Transportation Services, was delivering propane to the Nalley Valley foundry when his 8,000 gallon truck exploded, shooting debris 150 feet in the air, emergency and company officials reported. Fire spread to two nearby storage tanks, 28,000 and 31,000 gallons in size, which were damaged in the explosion.
McDonalds family declined media interviews through the hospital.
It remained unclear whether the fire started inside the facility or near the tanker.
Whats clear is that there was a leak and it found an ignition source, Assistant Fire Chief Dan Crotty said today.
Firefighters got the smoldering remnants of the blaze knocked down this morning, Crotty said, allowing inspectors to launch an investigation into the sequence of events leading up to the explosion that shook buildings and nerves for miles. Three others who were injured were treated and released Saturday.
Right now, most of the product has vented off from the tanks; the gas company in process of capping off a natural gas line; the power company is here, trying to isolate the plant from the grid; then well be able to start our investigation, Crotty said this afternoon.
Fire investigators will start at the outer perimeter and methodically work their way in, piecing together what happened, he said. The inspection will likely take several days.
Meanwhile, inspectors with the state Department of Labor and Industries were also on-scene conducting a separate investigation, Crotty said.
This was a terrible accident, said Mike Sullivan, safety director for IXL. Its a terrible tragedy for our company and it will hurt our operations considerably. The company has about 16 delivery tankers, he said.
A sealed off perimeter remained around the Atlas site today as crews evaluated how to remove the propane remaining in two large storage tanks, which still posed a potential hazard even though the contents were no longer under pressure.
The State Route 16 viaduct reopened to traffic early today after being closed for 11 hours, Washington State Department of Transportation officials said.
Traffic on nearby Interstate 5 was unaffected today.
Engineers examined the bridge deck and piers and declared them safe for the 131,000 motorists who cross the quarter-mile span each day, WSDOT said in a statement early today.
According to fire radio traffic, emergency and company officials were reviewing security video of the incident. It was not publicly released.
Atlas officials could not be reached for comment today.