Monday, April 26, 2004

4 die in Illinois plant explosion

8 more workers sent to hospitals

ILLIOPOLIS, Ill. -- Firefighters from about 25 departments worked all day Saturday trying to extinguish a blaze at the Formosa Plastics Corp. plant sparked by a chemical explosion that killed four workers. The cause of the Friday night blast is still unknown, officials said.

"They're just going to try and maintain it tonight and go back tomorrow and see what they can do," said Sgt. Joe Rath of the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department. "There's a lot of ... plastic in there."

Eighteen afternoon-shift employees were at the facility about 10:45 p.m. Friday when the explosion, which was heard about 20 miles away, erupted into an orange mushroom cloud above the plant and disrupted power throughout this village of about 1,000 people. The initial blast was followed by several smaller ones, officials said.

Eight workers were taken to nearby hospitals in Springfield and Decatur, where their conditions ranged from fair to critical. One of the injured was airlifted to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, hospital spokesman Ed McDowall said. Six other employees either declined care or were treated and released.

Based on preliminary reports, Joseph Machalek, 50, of Decatur; Larry Graves, 47, of Decatur; Glenn Lyman, 49, of Cornland; and Linda Hancock, 56, of Decatur died of smoke inhalation, said Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone. Autopsies on the four victims will be conducted Monday, she said.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is investigating the incident. The plant is represented by PACE.