Federal Investigators Release Findings Of Box Company Explosion

Federal Investigators Release Findings Of Box Company Explosion
Federal Investigators Release Findings Of Box Company Explosion

ST. LOUIS, MO/May 25, 2017 (STL.News) The federal investigation continues into the deadly explosion at the Loy Lange Box Company in south St. Louis in April.

On Thursday morning, members of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board held a news conference in downtown St. Louis, where they released an update into the investigation.  The findings were presented through the CSB’s Factual Investigative Update report.

According to federal investigators, the explosion of the giant tank called a Semi-Closed Receiver (SCR) weighing nearly 2,000 pounds, stemmed from an earlier repair.  Back in 2012, the tank was repaired for a leak.  The contractor recommended that the bottom portion of the tank be replaced.  Investigators say Loy Lange Box Company did not comply with that recommendation.

“An area of continuing interest surrounds a proposal received by Loy Lange 25 days after the repair was completed from the same contractor responsible for the leak repair work.  The proposal suggested replacement of the entire bottom of the SCR to provide additional thickness in order to protect against corrosion.  This replacement ultimately did not occur,” explains Cheryl MacKenzie, an investigation team lead with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

Fast forward to March 31, 2017.  Investigators say employees at Loy Lange noticed another leak from the tank.  Company officials contacted a service repair provider.  A technician was scheduled to make the repairs on the next business day, Monday April 3, which was the same day as the explosion.

On Monday morning, the steam generation system was activated. Investigators say based on the start-up schedule typically followed by the engineers and the time of the incident, it appears that the “catastrophic failure” occurred near the end of the start-up process.

The investigation team has concluded that the vessel failed due to corrosion of the six inch ring. The thinness of the ring created a weakness, resulting in a piece of the tank to separate.

This resulted in a major blast, “equivalent to about 350 pounds of TNT” according to federal investigators.  This launched the tank through the roof, crashing into the roof of neighboring business, Faultless Linen.  Four people were killed in the explosion.  One of the victims was an employee at Loy Lange Box Company and the three others were employees of Faultless Linen.

Another concern relates to the inspection process. Missouri requires repairs to comply with National Board standards, but the city of St. Louis has opted out of this requirement and operates its own code for inspections.

“The city of St. Louis has jurisdictional authority for Loy Lange Box Company and is responsible for annual inspections of the SCR.  To date the CSB has not received evidence that any formal inspections of the SCR occurred.”  MacKenzie said.

The Chemical Safety Board plans to release its final report later this year.

Jill Enders
About Jill Enders 121 Articles
Jill Enders is an award winning journalist. She is the proud recipient of the 2015 Missouri Broadcaster's Association award for Best News Series. Jill won this prestigious first place award for her piece “Ferguson Year In Review” she wrote, produced, and voiced for KTRS radio, where she also currently works as an anchor, reporter, and writer. Over the past twenty years, Jill has worn many hats in the broadcast industry. She has worked as a D.J., field reporter, production director, copy writer, airborne traffic reporter, anchor, and news bureau chief. Jill has covered a wide variety of high profile stories during her career, including the Flood of '93, presidential debates, and the Ferguson Crisis. Jill also has acted in TV, film, and stage. Her experience as an actress allows her to provide her acting students with a practical insight of the entertainment industry. Jill is a native St. Louisian and a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.