January, 2021

This is a repeating event

202130JanAll DayLittle General Store Explosion 2007Little General Store Ghent (US-WV) Origin: CSB Lessons:Emergency Preparedness,Process Knowledge,Stakeholder EngagementIndustry:MiscellaneousCountry:United StatesLanguage:ENLoC:Maintenance errorIncident:VCEHazard:FlammableCause:SupervisionImpact:HUMAN (Offsite Fatalities)Consequence:1-10 FatalitiesMaterial:Propane

Summary

On January 30, 2007, a propane explosion at the Little General Store in Ghent, West Virginia, killed two emergency responders and two propane service technicians, and injured six others. The explosion leveled the store, destroyed a responding ambulance, and damaged other nearby vehicles.

On the day of the incident, a junior propane service technician employed by Appalachian Heating was preparing to transfer liquid propane from an existing tank, owned by Ferrellgas, to a newly installed replacement tank. The existing tank was installed in 1994 directly next to the store’s exterior back wall in violation of West Virginia and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

When the technician removed a plug from the existing tank’s liquid withdrawal valve, liquid propane unexpectedly released. For guidance, he called his supervisor, a lead technician, who was offsite delivering propane. During this time propane continued releasing, forming a vapor cloud behind the store. The tank’s placement next to the exterior wall and beneath the open roof overhang provided a direct path for the propane to enter the store.

About 15 minutes after the release began, the junior technician called 911. A captain from the Ghent Volunteer Fire Department subsequently arrived and ordered the business to close. Little General employees closed the store but remained inside. Additional emergency responders and the lead technician also arrived at the scene. Witnesses reported seeing two responders and the two technicians in the area of the tank, likely inside the propane vapor cloud, minutes before the explosion.

Minutes after the emergency responders and lead technician arrived, the propane inside the building ignited. The resulting explosion killed the propane service technicians and two emergency responders who were near the tank. The blast also injured four store employees inside the building as well as two other emergency responders outside the store.

KEY ISSUES:
• EMERGENCY EVACUATION
• HAZARDOUS MATERIALS INCIDENT TRAINING FOR FIREFIGHTERS
• 911 CALL CENTER RESOURCES
• PROPANE COMPANY PROCEDURES
• PROPANE SERVICE TECHNICIAN TRAINING

ROOT CAUSES:
1. The Ferrellgas inspection and audit program did not identify the tank location as a hazard. Consequently, the tank remained against the building for more than 10 years.
2. Appalachian Heating did not formally train the junior technician, and on the day of incident he was working alone.
3. Emergency responders were not trained to recognize the need for immediate evacuation during liquid propane releases.


Image credit: CSB

Origin

CSBUS Chemical Safety Board

Time

Sat 30 Jan 2021 - Sat 30 Jan 2021

Location

Little General Store

125 Odd Rd, Ghent, WV 25843

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