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Archive for Wednesday, August 3, 2011

1 person dies after propane explosion in Butler County

August 3, 2011, 2:59 p.m. Updated August 3, 2011, 5:49 p.m.

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— One of three workers injured after a series of explosions at a propane company in south-central Kansas has died, authorities said Wednesday.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Department identified the Global Propane employee who died as Jeffrey Burnham, 40, of Wichita. He died Tuesday night at a burn hospital in Wichita.

Another worker, Jeremy Kessler, 25, of Wichita was listed in serious condition Wednesday at the hospital. A third employee, Barry Long of Newton was treated and released.

The Wichita Eagle reported that four houses and one business were damaged or destroyed by fires ignited by the explosions at Global Propane, which also sustained damage.

Jim Schmidt, director of Butler County Emergency Management, told the newspaper that the cause of the blasts is still not known. “One employee said there was a whoosh, a fire, and that’s all he remembers,” Schmidt said.

The state fire marshal’s office is joining the investigation.

Residents reported hearing 20 to 30 explosions, which Schmidt said was the sound of small 40-pound canisters blowing up. Several canisters were also launched into nearby vehicles and buildings, some landing hundreds of yards away and starting fires.

Dozens of homes were evacuated within one mile of the plant. Those who live near the propane company, located between Andover and Rose Hill, were able to return to their homes Tuesday night.

About 40 people spent time at a Red Cross shelter set up at a church before going back home.

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