Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

October 2, 2012

Tragic blast to get closer look

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — An internal investigation remains ongoing into the cause of a boiler explosion at the Wynnewood refinery last Friday night that killed one employee and critically injured another.

CVR Energy, Inc., officials announced Sunday they have launched an investigation into the blast that resulted in the death of 34-year-old Billy Smith of Pauls Valley and critically injured Russell Mann, 45, of Davis.

The explosion occurred at approximately 6:20 p.m. Sept. 28 as operators were restarting a boiler that had been temporarily shut down as part of the refinery’s turnaround process.

Although more needs to be learned about the cause, Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes said it appears the explosion was just a terrible accident.

“Our role was mainly as a first response to assist with any rescue,” Rhodes said.

“Our investigation showed us it was a tragic accident that led to the death of an employee,” he said.

“It was just a tragic industrial accident.”

It remains unknown what caused the explosion, but the sheriff said it was the blast itself that killed Smith and injured Mann.

“The boiler unit exploded, but there was no fire,” Rhodes said. “The injuries were the result of the blast; debris that was blown from the blast.”

CVR officials have been quick to provide updates and express their condolences for the tragic loss.

“I would like to express my deepest sympathy for the employees and families affected by this tragedy,” said Jack Lipinski, CVR Energy chief executive officer

“We are conducting a thorough investigation of the incident and cooperating fully with OSHA and the Oklahoma Department of Labor,” he said.

“Our focus is to determine how this accident occurred and what steps must be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident. We remain committed to providing a safe working environment for our employees and contractors.”

Damage at the refinery was limited to the boiler. Process units and other areas of the facility were unaffected.

Additionally, there has been no evidence of environmental impact. No damage estimates were immediately available.

The turnaround, which is a periodic shutdown of the operations, allows for necessary maintenance and upkeep of operating units. The Wynnewood refinery turnaround resumed Saturday.

“We want to thank Wynnewood and Garvin County emergency response teams for their rapid response and assistance,” said Wayne Leiker, vice president and refinery manager.

“We had immediate support from the community, local clergy, the city and first responders,” Leiker said.

“I especially want to thank our employees and contractors for their support, hard work and dedication during this difficult time.”