Cause unclear in massive explosion at Blue Rhino Propane plant, injuries reported

Injuries reported in massive explosion

TAVARES, Fla. - NEW DEVELOPMENTS:
A voluntary evacuation order is in place for some residents due to the discovery of another leak on a large propane tank.

Original Story:

A series of massive explosions rocked a propane facility in Tavares, Florida, injuring at least eight employees overnight Monday into Tuesday, according to officials.


PHOTOS OF THE EXPLOSION AND THE AFTERMATH: http://wfts.tv/1cjEYCu


Officials say most of the eight injured were being treated for burns and other related injuries.

A Lake County Sheriff's spokesperson said at a 2 a.m. news conference that all employees were accounted for after 15 were believed to have been missing.

Seven employees, out of 24 to 26 employees scheduled to work Monday night, have been hospitalized following the massive explosion that began around 10:30 p.m.

Scott Brokimeyer of Blue Rhino said the plant facility's management stated all employees known to have been at the facility Monday night had been accounted for.

"Several were injured during the incident and taken to local hospitals. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their loved ones. We applaud the fast response of local emergency personnel, and we have pledged our full support to them as they investigate the cause of the incident," Brokimeyer said. 

The spokesperson said it appeared many of them left the scene after the explosions began and later came back to report in to management and emergency officials.

According to the spokesperson, victims are at hospitals in the immediate area and some have been flown to major triage hospitals in the nearby cities of Orlando, Ocala and Gainesville.
 
Two or three victims self-transported themselves to nearby hospitals.
 
The spokesperson cautioned that a search would be required before a final report on the number of victims.
 
Officials are not yet speculating on what caused of the explosions. The sheriff's spokesperson said there were around  53,000 20-pound propane tanks at the tank-refurbishing plant.
 
The sheriff's spokesperson said initial information appeared to show that most, if not all, the plant's employees were in another area of the facility at the time of the explosions.
 
Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders told the  Associated Press blasts occurred inside the plant and blew the roof off at least part of the facility.
Explosions and fires started dying down between 12 a.m. and 1a.m., but smaller fires continued past 1:30 a.m. 
 
According to witness Ashley McCormick, she and her husband were sitting in their home, across Lake Dora from the plant, when they heard what sounded like multiple rolls of thunder. 
 
"As you listened to it more, it sounded like a lot of explosions," McCormick told ABC Action News by phone early Tuesday morning. "The sky was bright orange and it was flashing." 
 
Around 12:54 a.m., firefighters were seen putting water on some fires around the plant, but the fires still burning in the plant were deemed too dangerous to put out. At one point, more than 100 emergency personnel were on scene.
 
Chief Richard Keith with Tavares Fire Rescue said he's never seen anything like this in his 36 years.
 
The area around the plant is industrial, but there are homes in the surrounding area. "It is a very large propane plant," McCormick said. "Hundreds of propane tanks."
 
An initial evacuation area of 1 mile was moved back to only a half-mile, and was lifted by 3 a.m.
 
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Reporters from WFTV and ABC News contributed to this report from Tavares, Florida, and New York City.

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