One person was killed and another was seriously injured Friday after a chemical explosion in a manufacturing plant in Hampshire, fire officials said.
The blast caused significant property damage to the W.R. Meadows Inc. facility at 300 Industrial Drive, Village Manager Jay Hedges said. The company manufactures asphalt and concrete products.
Two employees were cleaning the top of a tank that contained several of those products before the explosion, Hampshire Fire Protection District Chief Trevor Herrmann said.
The Kane County coroner’s office’s late Friday afternoon identified the employee who died as Wuilmer Gavigia, 55, of Algonquin. He was pronounced dead at 11:32 a.m. at the scene. An autopsy will be done Monday, Coroner Rob Russell said.
The other employee was taken to Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin in critical condition and later flown to a hospital in Rockford for further treatment. That employee’s name and age has not been released.
Around 10:45 a.m., police and firefighters responded to a report of an explosion in Building Q of the manufacturing complex. The explosion also sparked a fire, but the building’s fire suppression system extinguished it before crews arrived.
Fire district authorities said Friday night their investigation determined the explosion was accidental, caused from “an electrical event in an explosive vapor atmosphere.”
Herrmann added that there were several chemicals used in the company’s processing of a concrete sealant product, and vapors from the product led to the blast.
Aerial photos taken by news helicopters showed the explosion destroyed an exterior wall at one corner of the building.
First responders searched the rest of the building but found no other victims. No other injuries were reported.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration also responded to the scene, confirmed Rhonda Burke, an OSHA spokeswoman.
OSHA conducted an inspection of W.R. Meadows in 2019 after an employee who was cleaning the top of a tank fell about 10 feet, injuring his head and back that January. The employee was hospitalized, according to an OSHA inspection report.
The agency cited the company for violating OSHA standards related to providing fall protection. A second violation involved a procedure to secure machinery to prevent unintentional movement and operation, according to the OSHA report.
The company settled the case and paid $23,760 in penalties. The case was closed in September 2019.
Since 2017, OSHA has conducted three inspections of W.R. Meadows. Inspectors found the two violations in 2019, none in a 2018 inspection and one in 2017.
Company President Matthew Price released a statement Friday evening. When asked for further details, Price said he could not release more information, citing the ongoing fire district investigation.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by this incident,” the statement read. “At this time, the scene has been secured, and no further hazard exist to employees or the public. The investigation into the accident continues.”
The blast brought a massive response from nine area fire departments, the state fire marshal, local Hampshire police and building departments, and Kane County resources including the sheriff’s office’s mobile command center, coroner and emergency management office.
• Daily Herald staff writers Susan Sarkauskas and Christopher Placek contributed to this report.