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Florida propane plant blast was likely accidental, fire chief says

Lake County fire-fighters rest after working to extinguish a fire at the remains of a propane plant after massive explosions at the plant in Tavares, Florida July 30, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/David Manning
Propane plant explosions Tavares, Florida July 30, 2013.
Reuters/Screenshot courtesy of CNN
Lake County fire-fighters rest after working to extinguish a fire at the remains of a propane plant after massive explosions at the plant in Tavares, Florida July 30, 2013. Credit: Reuters/David Manning

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A propane gas plant explosion in central Florida that injured seven workers, including at least three critically, was most likely caused by an accident, the fire chief for the town of Tavares said on Tuesday.

"We don't think there was any act of sabotage or anything like that," the Orlando Sentinel quoted Fire Chief Richard Keith as saying. "It was probably a human or equipment error."

Dozens of explosions rocked the Blue Rhino plant in Tavares on Monday night, sending columns of flames into the sky. Blue Rhino is part of the Ferrellgas company and the plant in the town of Tavares northwest of Orlando takes old propane cylinders, refurbishes them and then refills and sells them.

There were about 53,000 20-gallon propane tanks on the site when a fire started, setting off a chain reaction of explosions. The three bulk tanks on the property — which hold 90,000 gallons of propane each — did not ignite in the fire, whose origin was undetermined, Keith said.

Of the seven workers injured, the three in critical condition from burns were taken to a hospital. About two dozen workers were in the plant when the explosions started and all have been accounted for, investigators said.

Residents living within a mile of the plant were evacuated after the fire started but were allowed to return about three hours later. Many initially thought they heard fireworks as cylinder after cylinder exploded.

(Reporting by Barbara Liston and Jane Sutton; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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