Explosion rocks Rutherford Co. plant - WKRN News 2

Explosion rocks Rutherford Co. plant

Posted: Updated: Nov 10, 2010 03:24 PM CST

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Investigators are trying to figure out what sparked an explosion at a plant located off South Rutherford Boulevard in Murfreesboro Wednesday morning.

No one was injured but the explosion, but it badly damaged part of the plant and emergency responders say the outcome could have been much worse.

The explosion occurred in the building's boiler room at about 9 a.m.

Christopher Onwumere was one of over one-hundred employees inside the plant when the boiler exploded.

"We were working and all of a sudden, we heard like a poof," said Onwumere, "Something didn't feel normal about it. I looked around and seen some scurrying in the back and I took off running myself."

It was an explosion so big people up to a mile away reportedly heard it and felt before they could see the damage.

"There are three tanks.  One of the tanks exploded," Assistant Fire Chief Allen Swader explained.  "These are roughly 500 gallon tanks.  They are used to recycle steam back into the plant."

Fire officials said there were more than 100 employees inside the plant when the tank exploded.

None of them were injured.

After the scene was secured, a mysterious substance started leaking from one of the damaged tanks.

The Murfreesboro Fire Department sent in its HAZMAT team to stop the leak.

Chief Swader said, "As far as firefighters, when you hear a report of an explosion, you fear the worst, especially when it's at a plant where you know people are inside."

Employees inside the plant told News 2 everyone followed the proper safety protocol when the explosion occurred.

"Safety first, safety first," said Onwumere, "We definitely train and know what to do, because as soon as it happened, we went to our designated areas and everybody's accounted for."

The plant is owned by RockTenn Company and was previously owned by Southern Container. 

RockTenn makes paper products.  It has 90 facilities and employs 10,000 people.

State boiler investigators, as well as members of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are expected to investigate the explosion.

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