What has been described as a catastrophic explosion occurred at the Flower Grove Co-Op Gin on Thursday morning, October 15, 2020. The cotton gin is located just outside of Ackerly, Texas. Three workers were injured in the devastating blast, all taken to a medical center for burns and other injuries.
One of the blast victims was fortunate to have sustained less serious burns. The same cannot be said about two of the employees. A pair of Flower Grove Co-Op Gin employees sustained severe second and third degree burns over much of the top halves of the bodies. The two workers with more severe burns were airlifted to the University Medical Center in Lubbock.
They are expected to survive; however, as of the weekend, there was not specific indication as to how long they would be hospitalized and about the course of rehabilitation that will follow their eventual release from the medical center.
The three injured workers were all inside an office in the gin building itself when the explosion occurred. The blast happened just before 7:30 Thursday morning.
The entire interior of the building was completely destroyed as a result of the blast and resulting fire. The exterior of the structure experienced heavy damage as well. The management of Flower Grove Co-Op Gin stated in the aftermath of the explosion and fire that the facility would not return to operations for at least a year. With that said, the plan is to rebuild the facility and resume operations as soon as possible.
The Fire Marshal has initiated an investigation and has reported some very preliminary findings. It is important to note that the Fire Marshal has not yet made a firm conclusion about the cause of the explosion. The Fire Marshal has indicated that it is more likely than not that there as a butane gas leak in the building. Evidently, no one associated with the gin was aware of the gas leak.
As part of the Fire Marshal’s early hypothesis about the start of the blaze, there is evidence to suggest that one of the men in the office flipped a light switch. The current preliminary theory is that the act of flipping the light switch ignited the leaking butane, causing an immediate and massive explosion. Although this is becoming a working theory, the gin management team emphasizes that more investigation needs to be done and is underway.
Within minutes following the explosion, gin company management posted on Facebook that a gas explosion occurred. Of course, this statement was made in advance of any investigation into the underlying cause of the horrendous blast.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, has launched its own investigation into the cause of the Flower Grove Co-Op Gin explosion. As of the weekend, there was no information about how long the OSHA investigation might last. In addition, there was no announcement from OSHA that the gin had been cited for any workplace safety violations leading up to the explosion.
The Flower Grove Co-Op Gin issued an update on the state of the three workers injured in the blast via the company’s Facebook page:
“One (worker) has been released and will continue treatment at home. Our other two guys will be in the hospital for a while yet. They have second and third degree burns on the upper portion of their bodies. We have shared your prayers with them and all are in pretty good spirits. We are in this for the long haul so keep those prayers coming.”
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