Explosion, fire at KMCO plant in Crosby

Smoke billows from the KMCO plant fire, as seen by the neighbors and first responders on Ramsey Road in Crosby
Smoke billows from the KMCO plant fire, as seen by the neighbors and first responders on Ramsey Road in Crosby.

CROSBY – Shortly after 11:00 a.m. Tuesday many thought their buildings had been struck by a car because they were jarred violently, but it was the third of local plant fires in a couple of weeks, this time at KMCO, L.L.C. and this time it was deadly.

Two employees were taken by ambulance to nearby Crosby Church for Lifeflight helicopters to pick them up. At least, another man was killed in the incident although at first was reported missing. By press time the names of the injured or deceased had not been released.

A firefighter indicated that the two injured employees were in critical condition when found, having been burned over most of their bodies.

No one would call the fire out before 5:00 p.m. although apparently considerably under more control by 2:30 p.m. Crosby VFD was first on the scene, followed by ESD#5, then Sheldon units. Crosby VFD encountered low water pressure (that same problem as had extended the fire in Deer Park on March 17 and 18.) No less than 16 fire tanker trucks of water from surrounding communities were brought in to contain the flames.

According to John Foley, President and Chief Executive Officer of KMCO L.L.C., “There was an incident resulting in an ignition and fire today April 2, 2019 at KMCO, LLC in Crosby, Texas. We are deeply saddened to confirm at this time that there have been injuries and one fatality. Those injured have been transported for medical treatment. Our hearts and prayers go out to the individuals involved, as well as our first responders, employees, and our community.

“We have activated the company’s emergency response team and incident command center. We are working with local first responders to extinguish the fire. We will give another update as additional information becomes available.

“We apologize for any inconvenience to residents in the vicinity. The well-being of our people, neighbors and the environment remain our top priorities.”

Later company officials reported that a fire was touched off by isobutylene then accelerated by ethanol and ethyl acrylate, a transfer line blazed, it caught a tank afire and the tank started a nearby building blazing that was packed with dry chemicals.

Early on, someone told reporters that the plant was under evacuation due to a leak before an explosion. It was likewise reported that employees were leaving under a locked gate before an explosion.

KMCO L.L.C. had their problems before. Certainly this reporter will ever remember the events of Christmas Eve 2010 when three were killed in one of the least reported fatality accidents in history. Thirty nine violations were found resulting in fines of $132,680.

Corporate agents pleaded guilty to criminal charge of violating the federal Clean Air Act in 2016. A plea agreement document stated that a plant employee made false entries in logs of air testing of tanks that were known to be leaking chemicals. Another employee then used those falsified logs to submit reports to the federal and state environmental authorities. The document says the violation went on between 2008 and 2012. Before, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited KMCO for failing to comply with regulations on its risk-management plan, fining the company $2,700.

But Foley was dedicated to usher in a new safety priority, many of the safety precautions were evident when KMCO avoided many problems associated with Hurricane Harvey due to preparation.

It had started improvising safety but since last August, three notices of violation of a federal clean air act were filed by the EPA.

Residents who live within 1 mile of the plant had reports issued to stay indoors with their windows closed and heating and cooling systems turned off. Many in those neighborhoods indicated they had not heard the reports.

Crosby ISD, Channelview ISD and Sheldon ISD students and staff sheltered in place at all their campuses. That would later be lifted and parents were allowed to pick up their children.

Commissioner Adrian Garcia sends his heartfelt condolences to the family of the employee who passed away during the KMCO plant fire in Crosby. He is praying for a speedy recovery of the two employees who sustained injuries and are currently in area hospitals. The incident prompted a shelter-in-place order for residents within a 1-mile radius, which was lifted at about 3:15pm.

As precaution, Commissioner Adrian Garcia will keep the following parks/ facilities closed through the night: Crosby Park, Crosby Sports Complex, Crosby Community Center.

The EPA indicates that no toxic levels of gas have been detected, yet.