LIBERAL, KS — At least four people were hurt, and three remain hospitalized today, after an explosion and fire occurred at Groendyke Transport southeast of Liberal, Kansas.
At around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, a propane or natural gas tanker was inside a large metal building with five truck wash bays when it exploded and caught on fire, according to Seward County Fire Chief Andrew Barkley.
Fire crews believe the tanker was empty, but employees reported gas vapors were released. An investigation as to the cause of the explosion is underway.
As a precaution in case the tanker exploded, firefighters were held at bay for about 1 1/2 hours before they were able to take down the fire successfully, Barkley said.
Officials with the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s office said at least four people were injured. Barkley confirmed that the additional person received minor injuries and was treated and released by EMS.
The employees were reported to have second- and third-degree burns and were flown to Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita. They are in critical but stable condition, according to Southwest Medical Center officials in Liberal, who first received the patients.
A truck, a tank trailer, and the three employees were in the wash bay when the flash fire occurred. The tank trailer was not loaded and was being externally washed. Its last contents were condensate, a natural gas processing byproduct, but the cause of the flash fire is still being investigated by the Kansas Office of the State Fire Marshal. Groendyke Transport’s president and environmental specialist also were on the scene Tuesday to assess the situation.
The terminal’s parking lot remains open, but the wash rack and maintenance bays of the terminal are closed until the investigation is completed. At that time, Groendyke Transport officials will be able to assess the damage and determine how long repairs will take. Terminal office operations, meanwhile, have been moved temporarily to a nearby location so regular business can be conducted.
All employees were evacuated, according to Liberal Mayor Joe Denoyer, who was at the scene after the explosion. No homes were in danger, as the company is located in a rural area.
U.S. 83 was closed south of U.S. 54 in Liberal for about 2 1/2 hours and was opened around 4:25 p.m. Traffic was detoured to local roads, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Kansas State Fire Marshal investigators have been called to help the Seward County Fire Department with the investigation.
OSHA will conduct a thorough investigation which will include gathering evidence, interviewing employees, and reviewing relevant company records and documents. OSHA may issue citations and penalties if the agency finds violations of OSHA standards or law.