GM says one worker killed, four hospitalized in metal plant explosion

UPDATED: 7/1/14 10:15 pm ET - new story

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. said one person died and four people were hospitalized Tuesday after a chemical explosion at a factory near Fort Wayne, Ind.

Emergency officials received a call at about 1:50 p.m. local time today about a blast at GM’s metal-stamping facility in Marion, said Cliff Sessoms, the city’s deputy police chief, in a telephone interview. He confirmed the fatality and said eight people were injured.

A “contract team member” died when a “small chemical explosion” occurred, GM spokesman Bill Grotz said in an e-mailed statement. Four people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries and four others were taken to the hospital and ultimately required no treatment, he said.

The Marion Metal Center provides blanks, stampings and sheet-metal assembly for cars, vans, trucks and SUVs to GM assembly plants throughout North America and employs more than 1,600 people, according to the company’s Web site. GM said the situation is under control and an investigation into the incident is under way.

“When the explosion occurred, employees were evacuated and fire department and other emergency personnel responded quickly,” Grotz said. “Our condolences and deepest sympathies go to our team member’s family and colleagues.”

Specialty chemicals 

Quaker Chemical Corp., a maker of specialty chemicals based in Conshohocken, Pa., said in a separate statement that the worker who died was one of its employees.

“Our heartfelt sympathies, thoughts and prayers are with this employee’s family and the other injured workers and their families,” Quaker Chemical CEO Michael F. Barry said in the statement. “We will work with GM and government agencies to understand what occurred.”

Quaker Chemical provides inventory management and other contract services at the automaker’s plant, according to the statement.

GM, which had said it planned to resume work at the plant this evening, said in a late statement that the third shift was canceled except for maintenance and shipping drivers. The company said it expects first-shift employees to report to work at their normal time tomorrow.

GM also said that the workers held at the hospital for observation have been released.

The incident occurred as GM is under scrutiny for taking more than a decade to recall 2.59 million flawed Chevy Cobalts and other small cars linked to at least 13 deaths. The company earlier reported a 1 percent increase in U.S. auto sales for the month of June after analysts had predicted a drop of 6.3 percent.

The Web site for local television station WISH-TV said a 48-year-old male worker died in the explosion. The explosion involved the chemical chlorine dioxide, the station said, citing GM and fire department officials.

“This is heartbreaking for our community,” Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold told the station. 

Automotive News contributed to this report.

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