MARION, Ind. – A deadly explosion inside the GM stamping plant in Grant County killed one and injured eight on Tuesday.
By Tuesday night, all of the employees taken to the hospital were released, but they’re still feeling the grief of losing a friend and a co-worker.
GM made the decision around 8 p.m. on Tuesday night to keep third shift home, except maintenance and shipping drivers. The second shift got sent home right after the blast happened.
“Nothing like this ever happened over at this plant, ever, every,” said Daniel Graham, who lives nearby, “It sounded like someone hitting on the side of a house or wall.”
GM said the first alarm call went out just before 2 p.m.
The Marion Fire Chief said the explosion happened on the northwest side of the plant, GM confirms near water used in metal welding.
When emergency crews arrived, they started spraying off employees exposed to the substance.
In all, nine people were affected. Three declined treatment and five were taken to Marion General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The Grant County coroner’s office confirms an autopsy will be performed on 48-year-old James (Jim) Gibson on Wednesday. He had trauma to the head and burns on the front of his body.
Tuesday afternoon, investigators said the chemical in question was chlorine dioxide.
“Should not be inhaled, shouldn’t be around it without a respirator when it’s outside of its container,” said Paul David, Marion Fire Chief.
But Tuesday night a GM spokeswoman said they’re getting conflicting reports of exactly what substance may be involved. The company said they’ll do their own testing as part of the investigation.
“What our investigation will do, it will determine exactly what chemicals were there,” said Stephanie Jentgen, a spokesperson for General Motors, “The question is, how did this happen? Because we have not been able to get into the area where it occurred yet, the formal investigation has not started on that question.”
First shift is supposed to report to work on Wednesday morning. GM said it is monitoring air quality in the plant to ensure the conditions are safe.
James (Jim) Gibson was a contract employee who did not work for GM. He was employed by Quaker Chemical Corporation as a site manager.
The company released a statement on Tuesday evening which read in part:
Quaker Chemical Corporation announced that, earlier today, there was a reported explosion at the GM Marion Metal Center in Marion, Indiana. A number of workers were injured, including one fatality. We have received confirmation that this fatality was an employee ofQuaker Chemical Corporation.
“Right now our heartfelt sympathies, thoughts and prayers are with this employee’s family and the other injured workers and their families,” commented Michael F. Barry, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Quaker Chemical. “The safety of our associates, and those who work with them, is of paramount importance to us. We understand that GM has initiated an investigation, and we will work with GM and government agencies to understand what occurred.”
The plant employs more than 1,600 people in multiple shifts. It opened in 1956, according to GM.