TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Eye-opening details are emerging in the wake of the deadly DuPont plant explosion.
Minutes after Tuesday's explosion at DuPont, first responders knew there was no chemical threat to surrounding neighborhoods and plants. But that information was very slow in getting out to the public. As a result of News 4 reports on the issue, the alert system may soon be improved.
First responders had gotten the call of an explosion at Dupont Tuesday, at 11:09 a.m. It happened at a storage tank that once contained the chemical poly-vinyl flouride. The lid blew off and killed welder Rich Folaron, of Mollenberg-Betz, hired to work on the tank. Another welder, Bill Freeburg was burned, but is recovering. Minutes after the explosion, hazmat experts knew there was no threat of chemical exposure to the surrounding communities.
Dennis Carson of the town of Tonawanda Police said, "At approximately 11:25, I had spoke with dispatch, which was in touch with command, and knew that it was an industrial accident. There was no leak. There was no hazard."
But for well over an hour, that information was not relayed to the news media. Residents in the vicinity of the explosion didn't know how to react. Some said they would remain in their homes, based on early reports there might be a hazardous chemical in the air.
Dennis Russell said, "I'm going to stay in until they say it's clear. I mean, I got problems as it is breathing."
Finally, town of Tonawanda Police Lt. Nick Bado was directed to address the media.
"At no time was there any risk to the surrounding air," said Lt. Bado.
A DuPont spokesman said the company believed there was no need to communicate with the public about environmental concerns because there was no threat. But the public had been left in the dark, and town of Tonawanda Police believe there is room for improvement in communications.
Town of Tonawanda Police Chief Anthony Palombo said, "Maybe it's something that we would need to work with media on, and I think that is something we should do, because of the instantaneous nature of breaking news."
Chief Palombo said the town of Tonawanda is working on alerting the public through the town's website and on social media sites. A DuPont spokesman said the company is now reviewing the way it handled its communications after Tuesday's explosion.
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