Federal safety groups are investigating the explosion and fire that occurred Aug. 28 at the Bayer CropScience plant located in Institute, WV. One worker was killed and another severely injured.
The explosion, which happened at approximately 10:25 p.m., shook homes for several miles and the resulting fire burned for several hours until firefighters brought it under control. At that time, the shelter-in-place for surrounding communities was lifted, and area roads were reopened. Air quality tests conducted around the site determined there was no harmful chemical exposure.
Barry Withrow, who died in the blast, worked at the plant for more than 20 years. Another employee was transported to a burn center in Pittsburgh.
According to a press release from the Institute site, there was a chemical release in the immediate area of the West Carbamoylation Center, which developed into fire several minutes later. The damaged section of the plant, which was being restarted, manufactures Larvin, an insecticide used on multiple crops, including corn, cotton, and vegetables.
“This is a very sad day for the Institute site family,” the Institute site’s press release states. “At this time we do not have a cause for the incident and cannot speculate as to what happened. Our utmost concern is for the safety of our employees and the community. The unit is totally shut down; it will not be restarted in the future until its safe operation can be completely assured.”