T2 Laboratories Inc., a manufacturer of gasoline additives and chemical solvents, was engulfed in fire following the afternoon blast. According to media reports, the explosion sent large amounts of debris and smoke into the air and caused an evacuation of all businesses within at least a half-mile radius. The blast also knocked out the power of two generating units at a power plant and ripped the roof from the building of another nearby business.
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue spokesman Tom Francis told the Associated Press and Reuters that chemicals released by the explosion made the environment "incredibly dangerous for the first responders."
The deceased have been identified as Scott Gallagher, Karey Henry, Parish Ashley and Charles Bolchoz. Gallagher was co-owner of the plant. Fourteen other employees were admitted to hospitals for injuries.
“Major, Tragic Accident”
The cause of the explosion has not yet been determined, and the subsequent investigation may take months. A CSB investigation team arrived at the scene Dec. 20 to investigate. Lead Investigator Robert Hall and investigators Johnnie Banks, Francisco Altamirano, Jeffrey Wanko, Mary Nikityn and Lucy Sciallo, as well as CSB board member Gary Visscher, make up the inspection team.
CSB spokesperson Sandy Gilmour told OccupationalHazards.com the investigation team has just begun the inspection and is interviewing managers at the plant. He said the CSB considers the explosion a “major, tragic accident.”
“The Board is committed to find out what happened to make recommendations,” he said.