Three from E'town co. killed

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C&C Welding workers caught in Arkansas gas tank explosion

By The Staff



Associated Press Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An empty gasoline tank undergoing repairs exploded Tuesday at a fuel storage facility in rural north-central Arkansas, killing three employees of an Elizabethtown company, authorities said.

The tank had been cleaned previously and workers were preparing to install a new gauge on it when the blast occurred just before 2:30 p.m., said Rick Rainey, spokesman for the facility’s owner, Houston-based energy company TEPPCO Partners LP.

Rainey said it was not immediately clear where the workers were at the time of the explosion.

Three workers for C&C Welding of Elizabethtown, contracted to do the repairs, died in the blast south of Searcy in White County, said Tommy Jackson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

The names of those killed have not been released. A woman who answered the phone at C&C Welding acknowledged those killed worked for the company but declined further comment.

Robin Fentress, who answered the telephone at the home of C&C Welding employee Blaine Fentress, also declined to comment Tuesday evening.

The company’s Web site lists 536 W. Dixie Ave. as its office address. The site says the company provides certified tank inspections, repairs and alterations, and CAD fabrication and erection detail drawings, and has been in business since 1974.

“We are going to do a full investigation,” TEPPCO spokesman Rainey said.

Elizabeth Todd, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said federal investigators left for the explosion site Tuesday afternoon. She had no details about the blast.

The TEPPCO facility stores diesel and unleaded gasoline for clients and has five tanks with a total holding capacity of 250,000 barrels of fuel, Rainey said.

The tank that exploded remained standing Tuesday afternoon, its roof blown off by the force of the blast and its walls crumpled like an aluminum can.

The explosion occurred as a series of thunderstorms rolled through Arkansas. The National Weather Service recorded no instances of lightning in the area at the time of the blast, according to forecaster Chuck Rickard in North Little Rock.

There appeared to be no release of fuel or fumes in the area surrounding the tank after the explosion, said Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. He said there were no evacuations.

Jessie Honomichl, who lives down the road from the plant, said she heard the explosion’s boom across the surrounding farmland. The 89-year-old said she went to the window to look outside at the overcast skies.

“I thought it was thunder,” she said.

The News-Enterprise staff contributed to this report.   Copyright 2009, The Associated Press