January, 2006

This is a repeating event

200611JanAll DayBethune Point Explosion 2006City of Daytona Beach Bethune Point (US-FL)Lessons:Asset integrity,Control of Work,Process Knowledge,Workforce InvolvementIndustry:Water TreatmentCountry:United StatesLanguage:ENLoC:Maintenance error Origin: CSB Incident:VCEHazards:Flammable,ToxicContributory Factors:MaintenanceImpact:HUMAN (On Site Fatalities)Effects:1-10 FatalitiesMaterial:Methanol


On Wednesday, January 11, 2006, three workers continued the roof removal. About 11:15 a.m., the lead mechanic and the third worker were cutting the metal roof directly above the methanol tank vent. Sparks, showering down from the cutting torch, ignited methanol vapors coming from the vent, creating a fireball on top of the tank. The fire flashed through a flame arrester on the vent, igniting methanol vapors and air inside the tank, causing a explosion inside the steel tank.

The explosion inside the methanol storage tank
• rounded the tank’s flat bottom, permanently deforming the tank and raising the side wall about onefoot;
• ripped the nuts from six bolts used to anchor the tank to a concrete foundation;
• blew the flame arrester off the tank vent pipe;
• blew a level sensor off a 4-inch flange on the tank top;
• separated two 1-inch pipes, valves, and an attached level switch from flanges on the side of the tank;
• separated a 4-inch tank outlet pipe from the tank outlet valve; and
• separated a 4-inch tank fill pipe near the top the tank.

Methanol discharged from the separated pipes ignited and burned, spreading the fire. Methanol also flowed into the containment around the tank and through a drain to the WWTP where it was diluted and harmlessly processed. The lead mechanic and the third worker were in the man-lift basket over the methanol tank when the ignition occurred. They were likely burned from the initial fireball and burning methanol vapors discharging from the tank vent under pressure from the explosion. The lead mechanic, fully engulfed in fire, likely jumped or fell from the man-lift. Emergency responders found his body within the concrete containment next to the tank.

The third worker stated that he had been partially out of the man-lift basket leaning over the roof when the fire ignited. On fire, he climbed onto the roof to escape. Co-workers, unable to reach him with a ladder, told him to jump to an adjacent lower roof and then to the ground. He sustained second and third degree burns over most of his body, and was hospitalized for 4 months before being released to a medical rehabilitation facility. Methanol sprayed from separated pipes onto the crane, burning the crane cab with the mechanic inside. On fire, he exited the cab and was assisted by co-workers. He died in the hospital the following day.


1. The City of Daytona Beach did not implement adequate controls for hot work at the Bethune Point WWTP.
2. The City of Daytona Beach had a hazard communication program that did not effectively communicate the hazards associated with methanol at the Bethune Point WWTP.

Image credit: CSB


CSBUS Chemical Safety Board