HOUSTON — An explosion ripped through a metal-fabricating plant as the employees were about to shut it down for the holidays, killing eight workers and hurling body parts as far as 100 yards.
Two other workers were injured in the blast Sunday night at the Wyman Gordon Forging Co. plant near Houston. They were listed in stable condition.
The cause of the explosion was not known, said Harris County fire investigator Bill Anders. A company official said maintenance work was being done on huge pressurized tanks when the explosion occurred.
Karin Norred said the dead included her 25-year-old son, Jody. She said that someone came to her door and told her "there was a little problem at Wyman Gordon, that there had been an explosion, and that my son was dead. I don't think my son was a little problem."
The plant's 875 workers produce pipe used in power and chemical plants.
"We work diligently on safety so we would never have a day like this," Dave Gruber, the company's chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Like a family, we've come to be together with those families who instead of celebrating Christmas will be grieving for a tragic loss."
Workers were doing maintenance work on nine-story tanks, which should have been depressurized, said Doug Whelan, president of the company's forging division. "We can only assume there was pressure left in the system," and the maintenance work caused the explosion in a tank of nitrogen, Whelan said.