TYLER, TX - (KTRE) Emergency crews are continuing their work Thursday afternoon at Delek Refining in Tyler after an explosion at the local petroleum refinery, formerly known as La Gloria, that caused at least four injuries. The cause of the explosion, which happened just before 2:00 pm Thursday, is still being sought. OSHA says that its investigators are en route to Delek Thursday evening, and will take the lead in this investigation.
Traffic was shut down around the refinery, which is north of Highway 31 close to South Southeast Loop 323 on the east side of Tyler along Commerce Street. Tyler Police reopened traffic to the area at about 5:00 pm Thursday afternoon.
Noel Ryan, the Director of Investor Relations for Delek US Holdings, the company that owns Delek, told KLTV 7 around 4:00 pm Thursday that all workers are accounted for and that the fire started and was concentrated to the sat-gas area of the refinery.
Trinity Mother Francis Hospital spokesperson John Moore said that they have received one worker, 43 year old Brett Wells, who will be treated and released. Wells is in good condition.
East Texas Medical Center (ETMC) spokesperson Rebecca Berkley confirmed that one man is currently at ETMC with injuries related to smoke inhalation. He is in good condition, and is expected to be kept overnight for observation. Two men were transported from ETMC by Air-One to Parkland Hospital in Dallas for burns; both of those men are in critical condition.
Tyler Fire Chief David Schlottach said that after the fire crews knocked out the initial fire at the refinery, it actually re-ignited.
"From what I under they had a fracture on another line, so they had to reactivate the firefighting operations," said Chief Schlottach.
Fortunately, Schlottach says crews were far enough away when that second fire started, so none of them were hurt. Police blocked off streets around the refinery, keeping drivers out of the way. But Tyler Police PIO Don Martin says there was no threat to move out residents nearby.
"We've been given no reason to evacuate the neighborhoods. Plant officials have not given us any order that we need to evacuate because of the fumes."
Fire crews say they'll now begin the long and arduous task of clean-up.
For hours, residents in the neighborhood mere yards away from the refinery were at a standstill, just watching the smoke climb higher into the air. Some told KLTV 7 that they hear little bangs and booms all the time, but nothing like they heard or felt earlier this afternoon.
"We just heard a big explosion and it knocked pictures off my wall, and I knew definitely something had happened," said Joyce Hubbard, who lives nearby, "and instantly...just right after that, the sirens went off."
"I live right around the corner and I was doing some work and all of sudden I heard this big old boom," said Marie Gipson.
"Everybody in Tyler has come by here to see that thing," said Ray Hubbard. "It was bumper to bumper."
The refinery employs about 270 people. The refinery has a capacity of 60,000 barrels per day and is the 94th-largest oil refinery in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
And just a little history here for you on the Delek Refinery in Tyler - the Occupational Safety and Health Administration performed a planned inspection in February. They were fined a total of over $68,000 dollars. Most of the fines were for process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also penalized the company over $230,000 for excess production and equipment failure violations. We have a call in with OSHA and are awaiting their response to this situation.