KANSAS CITY, Mo.—An explosion launched a van-sized boiler through the roof a St. Louis box company and slammed much of it down onto a laundry business across the street on April 4, killing three people and injuring four others, authorities said.
One person died in the blast about 8 a.m. at the Loy-Lange Box Co. and two others were killed when a large piece of the boiler crashed into the nearby Faultless Healthcare Linen building’s office area, Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said.
The explosion appears to have been an accident, but investigators were trying to pinpoint what caused the cast iron boiler—estimated to weigh a ton to a ton and a half—to explode, Jenkerson said. The blast occurred in a largely industrial area of south St. Louis.
Two injured victims were in critical condition, and one was undergoing surgery, Jenkerson said. The injured include a linen company worker who was found pinned beneath the boiler, which Jenkerson said was roughly 4 feet in diameter and 10 feet long (1.2 metres in diameter and 3 metres long). The boiler was used to produce steam to power the box company’s equipment.
The boiler was still hot when rescuers arrived, the fire chief said, noting that the equipment travelled up to 500 feet (150 metres).
Though none of the victims’ names has been released, Faultless Healthcare Linen’s chief operating officer, Mark Spence, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the three victims there were new hires who were filling out paperwork when the boiler came crashing down on them, killing two and injuring the third.
“It’s emotionally overwhelming just to think what these poor people experienced,” Spence said.
A third building was damaged when a piece of pipe—about 8 feet (2.5 metres) long—linked to the explosion went through its roof, Jenkerson said. Other debris was found on the street.
Investigators will seek out and review the boiler’s inspection and maintenance records, though “it appears just to be a commercial accident,” Jenkerson said. Investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on the scene.
It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was working on the boiler at the time of the blast.
The phone rang unanswered at Loy-Lange Box Co., and an email message from The Associated Press to the company wasn’t returned. The company is described on its website as a “full-service corrugator and custom box manufacturer.”
—Associated Press reporters Margaret Stafford and Heather Hollingsworth contributed to this report from Kansas City