Two workers in Rock Hill, S.C., were killed when sparks from a welding torch ignited fumes and caused a tank to explode outside a Bowater Inc. paper plant Tuesday, the company said.
Seven other workers suffered minor injuries, said Mike Channell, a York County Emergency Management spokesman. The explosion happened at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the plant, according to The Associated Press.
Frank L. Pittman, 57, of Chester and Danny Sherer, 49, of Rock Hill were killed, Coroner Doug McKown said. Officials said both were contract employees with SW&B of Augusta, Maine.
Pittman and Sherer were welding pipes onto the top of a tank that contained several undetermined byproducts of the pulpmaking process, Channell said. The injured workers, who were employed by the same contractor, were on the ground.
The deaths were the first at the plant in more than 10 years, company spokesman Barre Mitchell said. "We have started a thorough accident investigation," Mitchell said. The contractor is offering counseling to the victims' families.
Most of the plant continued to operate Tuesday, Mitchell said, but engineers must inspect the building nearest the explosion before it can reopen. At least 50 of the plant's 1,150 workers were evacuated, but Channell said that was mostly to get them out of the way of emergency crews.