by: KSN News
Posted: Dec 27, 2019 / 08:25 AM CST / Updated: Dec 27, 2019 / 08:18 PM CST
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – At least 15 people were injured Friday when a nitrogen line exploded at the Beechcraft aircraft manufacturing facility causing part of the building to collapse, authorities say.
Daniel Wegner, deputy fire chief for Sedgwick County, said the explosion happened at around 8 a.m. at the facility. John Gallagher, the county’s EMS director, said 11 people were taken to hospitals and four were treated at the scene. No one was killed.
Workers inside the plant at the time say some were disoriented after hearing what they call an explosion.
“What felt like an earthquake,” said one person who was in the building at the time. “It was like an explosion there is no other way to describe it. I saw darkness and dirt in the air. I saw everything moving around because, like I said, there was a pretty big explosion. And the walls were flexing and the wall I was standing next to, it moved four feet.”
Wesley Medical Center said they received five patients. Two were treated and released. Three were admitted and are in stable condition.
Ascension Via Christi St. Francis said they received seven patients by ambulance and two by private vehicle. Two patients have been upgraded to fair condition, according to Via Christi St. Francis. A third upgraded to good condition, one patent in serious condition, and four were treated and released.
Wegner said the explosion happened when a 3-inch liquid nitrogen line ruptured.
“The lines that were ruptured as I told you earlier were shut down, we’re currently off-gassing a couple of tanks to one-inch valves, which is going to take about 30-45 minutes to off-gas the rest of the nitrogen,” Wegner said.
The gas posed no risk to nearby residents, officials said.
“The plant closed or shut down for the holiday season so the numbers that would have been here, were not, so it was a skeleton crew,” Wegner said.
Wegner said crews are doing building assessments and looking at the structural integrity of the surrounding structures that could have been impacted.
“It’s got extensive damage in there and that’s why the engineers and stuff are going to go in there and do a better assessment of the amount of damage in the building,” Wegner added.
Stephanie Harder, a spokeswoman for Beechcraft’s parent company, Textron Aviation, said the structure where the explosion happened is part of a complex of buildings and houses the business’ composite manufacturing and experimental aircraft or Plant 3.
“We can confirm that all of our employees and the guests on-site have been accounted for,” she said. “Our primary concern right now is making sure that anybody who has been impacted and injured is being taken care of to the best of our ability in cooperation with medical response and our local medical teams.”
The cause of the blast is under investigation.
“Our simple role is to assist with any investigation that needs to take place. OSHA is on-site, Textron has their folks here as well. So when the building becomes structurally sound, we will assist in any way possible that OSHA needs to document what has occurred here,” said Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter.
My thoughts go to the injured people, who likely, very literally, had no idea what hit them...