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Three Killed, One Missing as Fuel Barge Explodes

December 21, 1986|Associated Press

PINEY POINT, Md. — Three workers were killed and a fourth was missing Saturday in a petroleum barge explosion that was heard 17 miles away, authorities said.

The four workers were on the 300-by-100-foot barge at the Steuart Petroleum Co. Bulk Storage Facility, cleaning out remnants of a load of aviation fuel, when the blast occurred, said Bob Thomas, a spokesman for the Maryland state fire marshal's office. A fifth worker standing on the pier was injured.

"They were vacuuming up the remnants so they could store diesel fuel on the barge," Thomas said. "That's when it's most dangerous because of the vapors."

The barge was charred and a 20-foot section of the pier it was moored to was blown away, Thomas said. The explosion, heard more than 17 miles away at Solomons, also destroyed at least one unoccupied car parked near the pier, he said.

Fourth Believed Dead

More than 100 firefighters from Calvert and St. Mary's counties battled the fire for two hours before controlling it, Thomas said. Divers were preparing to search the area for the missing worker, but "we feel very confident no one could've survived the blast," he said.

The injured worker was in stable condition at St. Mary's Hospital, Thomas said. He had been blown off the pier into the water.

Michael Woodruff, Steuart Petroleum vice president of personnel, said that the company has had an "exemplary safety record" and that Saturday's deaths were the first involving one of its vessels.

The company distributes and markets petroleum products to residential, governmental and commercial customers, he said.

Representatives of the state fire marshal's office and the Maryland Natural Resources Police were at the scene Saturday investigating the cause of the blast, Thomas said.

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