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Man Found Safe After Explosion at Texas Refinery

Man Found Safe After Explosion at Texas Refinery

People watch the AGE refinery fire Wednesday May 5, 2010 in San Antonio from a bridge south of the fire. An 18-wheeler being loaded with fuel at a San Antonio refinery exploded Wednesday, setting off a chain reaction of smaller explosions and sending a to

Associated Press

May 06, 2010

SAN ANTONIO — Authorities say a man believed to have been missing after a fuel-laden 18-wheeler exploded at a Texas refinery has been found safe.

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood says the man is a driver of one of three tanker trucks that were at an AGE Refining Inc. fueling station when the Wednesday explosion happened. Hood says another driver was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center, where he’s listed in critical condition with severe burns.

The fire chief couldn’t immediately say which man was the driver of the truck that exploded.

The blast set off a series of smaller explosions and sent a towering plume of thick black smoke over the city’s southeast side.

Hood says several employees also were treated at the scene and everyone has been accounted for.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — An 18-wheeler being loaded with fuel at a San Antonio refinery exploded Wednesday, setting off a chain reaction of smaller explosions and sending a towering plume of thick black smoke over the city’s southeast side. One person was critically burned, and the driver of the exploding truck remained missing.

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said officials were trying to determine whether they could reach a shut-off valve at the AGE Refining Inc. facility to cut off the flow of fuel to the large tanks in the loading area. Several were heavily damaged in the blasts.

“It’s a very dangerous situation,” said Hood, who noted they also were trying to determine what kind of fuels are burning. “We will be out here quite a while.”

Several employees were treated at the scene and everyone except the driver of the truck that exploded was accounted for, Hood said.

Residents within a half-mile radius of the refinery were evacuated and Hood urged those with respiratory illnesses to remain inside as smoke rose in a large black column from the site.

San Antonio fire spokeswoman Deborah Foster said fire crews sprayed foam to tamp down the flames because water is useless against a petroleum fire. They were bringing more foam in as fast as possible, but Foster said the fire could burn for some time if crews couldn’t reach the shut-off valves.

More than 100 firefighters were on the scene, and Hood said commanders would have to move to avoid smoke as the weather changed later in the day.

Foster said allowing the fire to burn out on its own would be a difficult call because the smoke was black and acrid and there was a cluster of apartment buildings nearby.

Vanessa Valdez, 23, said she heard something like “gunfire” from her apartment about a mile from the refinery before a swarm of fire trucks and ambulances raced by. She was later evacuated from her home.

Police went through nearby apartment complexes with sirens, blasting an evacuation notice over the loud speaker and banging on doors and windows.

The Red Cross set up a shelter at a local school for evacuees.

AGE marketing director Jeff Dorrow confirmed a truck exploded at the refinery that handles about 14,000 barrels per day, but had no other immediate details.

AGE, which runs only the San Antonio facility, is a small refinery and filed for bankruptcy in February.

David Horowitz of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which investigates major accidents, said the board was gathering information on the fire and would decide whether to launch an investigation.

The National Response System, which gathers information on oil and chemical spills, had two incident reports about an overfilled or overflowing tank at the AGE site, but both occurred more than a decade ago. Nothing has been reported since 1998.

Associated Press Writer Michelle Roberts contributed to this report.

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