Witnesses felt propane explosion in Eufaula

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Updated: 5/08/2013 8:37 am Published: 5/07/2013 10:32 pm

Two men are in critical condition after a propane explosion in Eufaula Tuesday afternoon.

The Fire Chief says workers at Ford Sandblasting were putting a 250 gallon propane tank on a trailer and it fell off the fork lift and broke a valve.

Eufaula Mayor Selina Dornan says the city has sent the company letters to cease and desist because the land was zoned for commercial use not industrial use.

“This has nothing to do with the accident that happened,” said Dornan. “They had been notified and the City was aware and we were taking steps to correct that.” 

Workers evacuated but the fire chief says when they thought it was clear two men went back inside and that’s when there was a flash explosion.

“Heard a loud explosion, house shook, windows rattle,” said Gary Rhodes.

He lives in the neighborhood across the street from the warehouse explosion and says he heard the booming noise around 12:30 Tuesday afternoon.

“Something blew up. I didn’t know what. That’s why I stepped outside to see,” said Rhodes.

He took out his camera and recorded video of the flash fire at Ford Sandblasting.

“After a little while flames started coming out,” said Rhodes. “You could hear explosions then it got louder and dark.”

Another man who works nearby described the smoke dark as if it were burning tires.

“Smoke boiling out in flames. There were flames coming out 20 foot in the air,” said Odie Newman.

Witnesses say they saw workers appear out of the flames and smoke

“After a minute or so I saw a few people staggering out of the building,” said Rhodes.

Firefighters say the explosion happened after a valve on a propane tank broke after it fell off a forklift.

“The tank itself didn’t blow until it got an ignition source,” said the Chief.

The ignition source has not been determined.

The owner of Ford Sandblasting says he’s owned this type of company on and off for 20 years and sandblasts all sorts of items. Michael Ford says this has never happened. They moved to the site about three months ago from down the road. 

While city officials and OSHA investigates what happened, neighbors are thanking the emergency crews for their quick response.

“Those who rushed into help, they did without thinking about their own safety. It was still a dangerous situation,” said Rhodes.

A volunteer firefighter with Texanna was treated for smoke inhalation on the scene and was back to work.

The Elementary and Middle School across the street was evacuated as a safety precaution. The students were transported to the high school and school was canceled for the rest of the day.

The two men are in critical condition at burn center at Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa.

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