Explosion at Liquid Transfer Terminals results in injury, fatality

Published 5:56 pm Friday, August 21, 2015


A view of the smoke rising from behind the train bridge over the Flint River.

One man was killed and another injured after a massive explosion at a chemical plant in Bainbridge Wednesday morning. Firefighters battled the resulting fire for almost five hours before it was under control.

Christopher Coker, 35, of Pelham, was on top of a holding tank conducting maintenance when it exploded around 11:30 a.m. Coker, who was the assistant manager at the plant, was killed by the blast, according to Bainbridge Public Safety.

Randall Logue, 58, of Bainbridge, was climbing up the ladder to assist Coker when the tank exploded. According to family, Logue is home and well.
The million-gallon tank held a sodium hydrosulfide solution, and the blast blew the top off of the tank.

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BPS and Decatur County Fire and Rescue began fighting the flames with water and later switched to foam to try to suppress the flames. BPS fire prevention Major Doyle Welch said that the firefighters used a total of about 1,600 gallons of foam before the fire was under control.

“With that magnitude of fire, it takes a lot of foam,” said Welch. “They had it pretty well knocked down, but then the rain came in and washed away some of that foam blanket, and we had some hot spots where it flared up.”

An exact cause of the explosion has yet to be determined.

BPS had the fire under control around 6:30 p.m., but officers and firefighters stayed on site until around 8:30 p.m. to make sure it was out and would not flare up again.
Bainbridge city officials said that four BPS firefighters received medical treatment from exposure to the extreme heat, smoke and chemical fumes and that they were released and are recovering well.

Firefighters and officers from several surrounding agencies came to help from Thomas County, Grady County, Miller County, Seminole County and several volunteer agencies. The Decatur County Sheriff’s Office, Decatur County Fire and Rescue and Georgia State Patrol also assisted.

Welch said that he doesn’t have a final count on manpower yet, because it will take about a week before all of the paperwork gets done with such a large response team.

“I want to thank everyone that came to our aid,” said BPS director Jerry Carter. “We greatly appreciate everyone who came to assist. It’s great to see a community come together like that for a situation that could have been much worse.”

“This was a terrible tragedy,” Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said, “but the one good thing we can take from it is that our emergency operations worked exactly as planned. The county and city worked seamlessly together, and our calls for mutual aid were returned. It was a testimony to the fact that our training worked, and it was a

great collective effort from a multitude of organizations.

Wednesday afternoon, businesses and homes in a half-mile radius of the plant were evacuated and schools were put on lockdown as a safety precaution to limit potential exposure to the chemicals.

Carter said about 20 homes in the area were evacuated Wednesday evening as a safety precaution. The Salvation Army provided rooms and food for the displaced residents at the Howard Johnson hotel.  Those residents were allowed to return after an OK by the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday morning.

Decatur-Grady 911 and Climax Fire Department volunteers prepared sandwiches and snacks for firefighters still on scene Wednesday evening, and Bainbridge city workers delivered water to the firefighters.