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Two burned in blast

June 28, 1999

Blast siteBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: MARLA BROSE / staff photographer




An exploding boiler burned two workers inside a paper manufacturing plant near Hagerstown Sunday evening, according to fire and rescue personnel.

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Neither victim was identified and the State Fire Marshal was still investigating the incident Sunday night. One man remained at Bayview Burn Center in Baltimore and another was in Washington County Hospital.

Their conditions were unknown.

An odor of smoke was coming from the boiler room of Maryland Paper before the accident, according to Deputy State Fire Marshal Ted Meminger. As the two men approached, a boiler broke its bolts and flew open at about 5:06 p.m.

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The explosion within it hurled debris into another part of the two-story building, which remained intact and structurally sound, according to Meminger. The force deformed a metal plate inside the boiler, which measures about 8 feet in diameter and 15 feet long.

According to Maryland Paper Supervisor Joe Mowery, the men were standing in front of a door that the explosion forced open. "I wish I knew more," he said.

Paramedic Kyle Crutchley said about 40 percent one victim's body was burned. "The other one didn't look as serious," he said.

Crutchley estimated the other man had burns on 2 percent of his body. Amy Shirk, an emergency medical technician, said she treated minor burns on that man's lower legs.

Capt. Tim Ammons said the victims were burned by steam.

Maryland Paper makes paper from recycled newspapers and cardboard. A hazardous materials team was called but then dismissed before arriving on the scene. Radio transmissions referred to the exploded substance as "paper pulp and water."

Fire police blocked off Elliott Parkway while a helicopter landed in the road to take the seriously burned man to Baltimore. An ambulance drove the man with minor burns to Hagerstown.

Fifteen firefighters and rescue workers from Williamsport, Maugansville and Halfway went to the I-70/81 Industrial Park southwest of Hagerstown near Williamsport. They found no fire when they arrived, according to Lt. Frank Watkins.

Three engines, three ambulances and one rescue vehicle filled the parking lot. Employees were evacuated from the building and a group of about 10 stood at the edge of the lot watching.

Because it is unclear whether a fireball erupted or a steam explosion occurred, the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration was called in to investigate, according to the fire marshal.

MOSH representatives came to the industrial park Sunday night.

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