1 injured in Sterling explosion - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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1 injured in Sterling explosion

The explosion was reported at Austin Powder. The explosion was reported at Austin Powder.
An explosion was reported in Sterling Friday morning. An explosion was reported in Sterling Friday morning.

An explosion at an explosives plant in Sterling on Friday morning leaves one man injured after the chemicals he mixed proved to be disastrous.

According to officials with Quinebaug Valley Dispatch, the explosion was reported at Austin Powder in the 300 block of Ekonk Hill Road before 10 a.m.

Hazmat crews converged from eight neighboring towns as well as officials with the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

DEEP officials said its hazmat team was sent to the facility after a chemical reaction caused the explosion, injuring the worker. Officials said the reaction started when the worker was mixing chemicals.

"It could be a non-explosive event," said Sterling Fire Marshal Jim Sweet. "It could be a chemical reaction."

Crews were still trying to determine what those chemicals were Friday evening.

That unidentified worker was brought to William Backus Hospital in Norwich to be treated for burns to his arms and lower torso. The victim is expected to suffer injuries sustained during the incident.

"He was being hosed off and such. Had some chemical burns apparently," Sweet said.

Officials with the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; DEEP; Connecticut State police and local police were investigating the incident.

Officials don't think anything out of the ordinary was going on this morning and are looking into the possibility the chemicals may have been mislabeled.

"We want to interview him to try to ascertain what materials were being used and whether there were contaminants in the re-agents or if products were mislabeled," said Mark DeCaprio of DEEP.

There are no online records for Occupational Safety and Health Administration for Austin Powder.

When the explosion or reaction happened, DEEP officials said they noticed a yellow cloud develop.

The building didn't sustain any severe damage.

Katherine Hermonot, who works across the street, usually pays no attention to the Austin Powder plant, but Friday morning she couldn't help but notice it.

"I heard there was an explosion and I looked over to the dynamite plant and I'm like, 'oh it wasn't that big' because I didn't see anything," she said.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation said Route 49 was closed in both directions between New Road and Cedar Swamp Road. Route 49 remained closed at 4:30 p.m.

Hazmat crews sent in a robot to confirm the chemicals present wouldn't pose a risk to investigators.

But it determined the chemicals, even though they aren't hazardous, are still reacting to each other. Once that's complete, the cleanup can begin.

According to officials with Austin Powder, the company makes blasting materials for construction sites. The plant only has four employees.

"We don't believe there's a threat or hazard to areas outside the plant and there will be no additional evacuations," said state police Sgt. John Guari.

DeCaprio said the company makes explosives for "blasting stone rock."

However for Hermonot, Friday's incident was a reminder of the power this small plant holds.

"I know they have it there because there's not many people around," she said. "There has to be a certain number of people in a radius, so that's kinda concerning, because I'm like, 'oh great, I'm one of those people.'"

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