LA PORTE, Texas – One person was killed and another is in critical condition from an explosion at an industrial gas facility Saturday morning in La Porte, 20 miles southeast of Houston.
Investigators are trying to determine what caused the explosion, which sent a plume of black smoke into the sky, causing a shelter-in-place in Pasadena. The shelter-in-place was lifted at about 9:40 a.m., nearly two hours after it was first issued.
One person was sent to the UTMB hospital in Galveston by helicopter, PHI Air Medical confirmed to KHOU News. One employee was reported missing, but his body was found by search and rescue crews Saturday evening, according to an official with Air Liquide.
Air Liquide is the company that owns and operates the facility where the explosion took place.
Company officials said that 15 to 20 people were around the area when the explosion occurred.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said it was shortly before 8 a.m. when residents starting calling 911 about the sound of “booms.” Witnesses told KHOU News they heard several explosions.
According to the city of La Porte, the explosion and fire occurred at the Air Liquide cylinder plant in the 11400 block of West Fairmont Parkway near Driftwood Drive. Easterly winds pushed smoke from the fire into Pasadena.
A later update from the city indicated the situation was under control, but there are still some hot spots at the plant.
“Emergency responders are still on scene and the fire is under control. Air monitoring is taking place throughout the city. At this time, nothing has been found that should warrant a shelter in place for the citizens of La Porte.”
The Office of Emergency Management in La Porte said while residents there were never asked to shelter-in-place, some nearby facilities may have had their workers take shelter.
During the Pasadena shelter-in-place, residents south of Spencer Highway and east of Beltway 8 were encouraged to stay inside with their doors and windows closed and their A/C off.
As investigators try to determine the cause of the incident, Fairmont Parkway may remain closed for an extended period of time and residents are urged to stay out of the general area. City officials said that they will not test the outdoor warning sirens at noon Saturday in light of the situation.
Air Liquide released this statement:
“Air Liquide is monitoring a fire at its facility in La Porte. We understand from emergency personnel that the fire is now contained. We are working to determine the cause of the incident and remain in contact with authorities at the scene.
The safety of our employees and the communities in which Air Liquide operates remains the company’s top priority.
The facility in La Porte houses a mix of industrial gases such as nitrogen and hydrogen that are used in the processing of such things as food and beverages and electronics.”