Worker Found Dead After Chemical Explosion, Fire in Massachusetts Industrial Park

Four other workers were sent to the hospital following the "violent" explosion, but they have since been released uninjured

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A worker has been found dead after a major chemical explosion and fire at an industrial park in Newburyport, Massachusetts, authorities said Wednesday afternoon.

The early morning blast left the building with major structural damage — a chemical vat was thrown about 30 feet from the building where it was housed, officials said. Hours later, there was no danger to the public from the incident, though environmental officials were assessing impacts to local waterways.

The explosion and fire happened at the Seqens facility — formerly PCI Synthesis — on Opportunity Way in the industrial park about 12:45 a.m., according to the Newburyport Fire Department. Firefighters arrived to find heavy fire.

At the time of the explosion, there were five workers inside the building. Four were taken to a local hospital and have since been released, but another remained unaccounted for, officials said.

That man's body was later found, Newburyport Fire Chief Steve Bradbury said.

"We located the fifth worker. It was nice to bring some closure to his family," he said at a press conference.

Bradbury said crews were working to remove the victim from the wreckage.

"Presently, we're putting together a plan to extricate the fifth worker, so we're hoping that we can get that done as soon as possible," he said. It's in a hazardous situation, located on the ground level, where we thought he would be located."

Major structural damage to the building was proving to be a hurdle in the search effort for the missing worker. A Coast Guard helicopter was called in to aid in the missing worker search from above.

"It's a very methodical process," Bradbury said Wednesday morning. "We're just getting together with the demolition company, the city's structural engineer, the building inspector, so we need to make sure it's safe for us to continue our search in a particular area we want to take a look at."

Images from the scene show debris on the ground outside the building, and heavy foam that crews sprayed to put out the fire.

Officials have assured the public that there is not a danger to nearby residents, but have asked that people in the industrial park avoid Opportunity Way for now, which is closed for the time being.

A statement from PCI Synthesis said that the company was grateful for the support and quick work of first responders, adding that "all our attention is focused on the situation of our employees."

In February of 2020, there was a series of explosions at this site, which blew a hole through the roof and forced the building to be evacuated.

The cause of Thursday morning's explosion remains under investigation by officials.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responding, an agency spokesperson said.

In 2020, authorities said a chemical reaction caused a series of explosions at the plant. That happened a year after OSHA found “serious” violations in the company’s management of highly hazardous chemicals, according to online agency records. There were no serious injuries.

A chemical fire in the building in June 2021 sent smoke pouring out of roof vents and prompted a response by a hazardous materials team, according to a fire department statement at the time. Sprinklers controlled the fire within about 20 minutes, but the city suspended the factory’s permits during the investigation.

The factory has also been cited by OSHA for violations of workplace safety rules and by the Environmental Protection Agency for alleged violations of hazardous waste laws.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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