‘They were caught up in the fireball’ | Madison Co. fire coordinator details Friday morning explosion

Six people injured following Friday morning explosion.
Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 9:50 AM CDT
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MADISON CO., Miss. (WLBT) - At least six people were injured after suffering severe burns following a Friday morning oil explosion in Madison County.

The incident happened on Virlilia Road near Jubilee Road at the Salt Water Disposal Site.

Madison County Fire Coordinator Minor Norman said the victims suffered burns on at least 50 percent of their bodies, with one person being burned from head to toe. Two people were airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for treatment.

“There was a huge fireball and they were caught up in it,” he said. “Some were critical.”

The explosion occurred before 8 a.m. Madison County Sheriff’s Department received a call into dispatch around 7:50.

“It was one of the victims of the explosion making the call,” Norman said. “The fire was put under control at 9:02.”

Norman said the cause of the explosion was still under investigation.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality was going out to the site to access the situation.

“We’re not sure what caused it. There were four storage tank facilities, to hold products from oil wells. They [the workers] were in the process of changing out two tanks with new fiberglass tanks. They were getting ready to go into service when the older tank exploded,” Norman said.

“You had some type of petroleum product in it. Because it was a huge fireball, it severely burned six workers.”

The workers were airlifted to seek medical treatment, Madison County spokesman Heath Hall said.

Minor said the explosion occurred in the Kearney Park Fire Department’s response area, but the Gluckstadt Fire Department was the first on the scene.

“In fact, Gluckstadt got here when I got here, with an engine,” he said.

When firefighters arrived, they noticed one storage tank had been blown off of its foundation, while another one had its top blown off.

The tank was found in the woods behind the work site, while the top to the other was still missing. “The fire blew that tank up in the air. We don’t know how high it went up, but it went higher than the trees,” he said.

The tanks hold between 600 and 700 barrels of oil each, or approximately 29,400 gallons, each.

The tank that remained had visible flames and heavy smoke billowing out. “We kept the tank cool and found out what type of products we were dealing with, and how much product. When we got someone from the oil company to get here, we verified there wasn’t much product in the tanks.”

Firefighters worked to keep the tank cool until the fire burned itself out. Authorities also flew a drone over the tank to ensure that the fire had been extinguished.

The employees were working for W.S. Red Hancock, out of Bentonia.

According to its website, Hancock provides oilfield construction and services, dirt work, heavy construction, and mechanical and fabrication work.

We reached out to the Bentonia offices and were told they had officials on the site assessing the situation but had no additional information.

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