The blast, which buckled a concrete wall and blew off part of a roof at the facility, occurred at 10:43 a.m. on Jan. 25 and was felt as far away as Staten Island, N.Y.. The men were transferring acetylene from large tanks into hundreds of smaller tanks that were in three tractor trailers when a hose leaked and one of the smaller cylinders blew up, said Perth Amboy Fire Chief Larry Cattano. A cause of the leak was not immediately known, he said.
Employees Pablo Morillo and Ynio Perez were pronounced dead at the scene. German Gonzalez Vasquez died later at University Hospital in Newark, N.J. A fourth worker, Jovany Peoa Gomez, is listed in critical condition and eight others were taken to a local hospital where they were treated for minor injuries. The company employs 14 workers.
Eduardo Rocha, the nephew of Vasquez, told the New Jersey Star-Ledger that the workers at the company were very close. "They all knew each other, and they got along like brothers," he said.
The company is owned by William Goodliffe, who could not be reached for comment. His brother, Robert J. Goodliffe, who until 1995 was a partner in the company, said, "We've never had any fatalities so we just feel so terribly for the families. We haven't figured out what to do for the families yet. We don't know what to do for them."
OSHA is investigating the incident, along with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). According to OSHA spokesperson Kate Dugan, the company has been inspected twice and violations classified as "serious" were found. Saying that she didn't want to downplay the fact the company was cited for serious violations, Dugan added that the company has what she termed a "good" OSHA record. As for the violations, "They abated [violations], they fixed it," she said.
CSB has dispatched an investigation team, led by Mike Morris, to the scene. CSB Board members Carolyn Merritt and Gary Visscher accompanied the team.