TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Family, friends and colleagues are heartbroken and puzzled. This also comes with questions over exactly what went wrong.
A contract worker lost his life and another was burned when the explosion ripped through an empty tank at the DuPont Plant in the town of Tonawanda on Tuesday. This is a Buffalo company that says it never had a serious accident in the hundred years it's been around. So when Rich Folaron lost his life Tuesday while on a project at DuPont, employees were shocked and deeply saddened.
Mollenberg-Betz President Van Mollenberg said, "It's a very sad moment in our hundred years of business, and I don't think I'll get over it forever."
Tuesday's explosion at DuPont in the Town of Tonawanda took the life 57-year-old Rich Folaron, a husband and father of four children. He had been on the top of a storage tank welding a bracket. The tank was supposed to be empty, but exploded, the lid blowing off and killing the worker instantly. Folaron had been a well-liked worker at Mollenberg-Betz.
"There was a lot of tears in people's eyes and that sort of thing, because they all knew Rich," said Mollenberg.
Bill Freeburg, the other welder who was believed to be on the ground at the time of the explosion, suffered burns that are not life-threatening. He is recovering at ECMC'S Burn Unit.
Mollenberg said, "He was more concerned about Rich and his family than he was about himself."
DuPont says the incident involved an empty tank that had been taken out of service and was undergoing maintenance work. OSHA, as well as DuPont, have launched investigations. OSHA has delayed sending two compliance officers to the scene of the explosion at DuPont. They were supposed to begin gathering evidence on Tuesday.
OSHA says it wants to evaluate information DuPont has already provided and determine what is still needed. DuPont says it has temporarily suspended work involving the storage tank to allow the incident investigation to take place.
OSHA Inspector Arthur Dube said, "There was probably a little bit of some unknown material left in the tank. Right now it's unknown material. No one knows exactly what it is."
Mollenberg-Betz believes DuPont followed all safety precautions before the welders began their work.
"The tank was, as far as I know, washed out a few times, air-monitored a couple of times, so all the safety precautions had taken place that were supposed to take place," said Mollenberg.
The explosion occurred at around 11:10 a.m. Tuesday, but residents who live nearby didn't know for more than an hour that no hazardous chemicals were released into the air.
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