One man is dead and three other workers suffered injuries after a Monday morning explosion at Omega Protein in Moss Point, MS, fire Chief Tommy Posey confirmed.
Jerry Lee Taylor II, 25, died in the incident, said Jackson County Coroner Vicki Broadus.
The contract workers were working near the plant’s fish oil storage tanks when one of the five tanks exploded just before 9:30 a.m., Posey said. There was no fire, Posey said, just an explosion.
“The explosion blew the top off the tank,” Posey said.
The Moss Point fire and police departments, county personnel, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and nearby volunteer fire departments responded to the scene, Posey said.
An investigation unit is at the hospital “trying to piece together what happened,” he said, and the investigation is ongoing.
“Since this is an industrial type of incident, OSHA will be called in to do an investigation,” he said.
Jackson County Emergency Services Director Earl Etheridge said the contractors were “working atop a big metal tank on the ground that was partially filled with water” when the explosion occurred.
The injured workers went to Singing River Hospital emergency room, where two ended up treated for minor injuries and released and one went to surgery, spokesman Richard Lucas said.
“Omega Protein’s thoughts and prayers are with the workers and their families,” the company said.
Company spokesman Ben Landry said they shut down the plant after the incident and will it remain closed for a couple days until the on-site investigation is complete.
The company operates a menhaden, or pogy, fishing fleet and processing facility in Moss Point. It produces fish oils and fish meal for human consumption and for use in aquaculture, agriculture and industrial applications.
“The Moss Point facility did not suffer any significant damage or loss of product inventory as a result of the incident,” company officials said.
“Omega Protein is working cooperatively with local officials as we aid in gathering details about today’s events,” it said. “We expect to have the facility back operating by week’s end.”
The company set up shop in Moss Point beginning in 1956. As of 2013, the Moss Point facility operated eight fishing ships and nine aircraft to locate schools of menhaden, according to news accounts.
Last year, the company said its operational budget for the Moss Point plant and shipyard was about $36 million annually, mostly for salaries and payments to its suppliers.
The plant has had some safety issues in the past. In April 2012, 24-year-old Christopher Allen Hebert, who worked in plant maintenance, died after a machinery accident.
Five months later, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Omega Protein with 25 safety and health violations based on an inspection prompted by the death.
There were 21 serious violations, including failing to have employees affix personal lockout devices to a group lockout device, develop a written respirator protection program and develop and document procedures for controlling hazardous energy, among others.
OSHA ordered the company to pay fines totaling $79,200.