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February 23, 2012 at 12:09 PM

5 hurt in propane tank explosion near Edmonds

Firefighters spray water on the burned remains of a truck after a propane tank exploded into fire and injured 5 people, one seriously, at the Picnic Point Wastewater Treatment facility in Edmonds Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times)

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Five workers were burned, one  seriously, when a propane tank exploded at a construction site near Edmonds around 11 a.m. Thursday.

Harborview Medical Center reported all five victims “are going to be fine,” said spokeswoman Susan Gregg. Four are in satisfactory condition, and one will be transferred to intensive care with  serious burns. She said the five victims, all men, were ages 31 to 48, and all had upper-body burns.

The accident happened at Picnic Point Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is under construction just north of Edmonds on Picnic Point Road.

Leslie Hynes, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Fire Department, said the accident happened when a 1,000-gallon propane tank, which is about the size of a small car, was being loaded onto a truck for removal from the site.

The load apparently shifted, causing the tank to move unexpectedly, and a valve may have sheared off the tank, Hynes said. The truck driver “yelled for people to clear the area, and then the explosion occurred,” she said.

The fire spread to two buildings, as well as the truck and a portion of an adjacent wooded area, but was quickly contained, she said.

The propane tank was being used for temporary heating of the Picnic Point treatment plant building, and contained about 300 gallons, she said.

Joe Bolam, maintenance and operations director for the Alderwood Water District, said that when the tank blew,  “the fireball went through the building and that’s where most of the people got hurt. ”

Shawn Kiesling was working nearby and saw the explosion blow out the windows.

“It was pretty scary, probably the biggest fireball I think I’ve ever seen,” he said.

The treatment plant is being rebuilt by the Alderwood Water and Wastewater District, and is nearing completion. About 60 workers were onsite at the time of the explosion, Hynes said.

Students at Picnic Point Elementary, about a mile away, were being  kept inside in case toxic chemicals were in the air, a spokeswoman at the school said. Some teachers on one wing of the school reported hearing the explosion, she said, but most didn’t see or hear anything.

When the explosion occurred, a woman who lives about a mile away from the wastewater plant said “it felt like an earthquake.” The woman, who did not give her name, said she did not see or hear anything.

Seattle Times staff reporter Emily Heffter contributed to this report.


Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Edmonds, explosion, KING5


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