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An outdoor tank exploded at the Pencco plant in Middlesex, NC, killing the plant manager.

One worker died after an outdoor tank exploded at a manufacturer of wastewater treatment chemicals in Middlesex, NC, last Friday, police said.

The tank exploded at Pencco, Inc., on U.S. Highway 264-A in Middlesex, at 9:30 a.m., the fire marshal said.

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Dale Bachman, 64, and the plant manager, died in the blast, police said.

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The explosion involved a 15,000-gallon outdoor mixing tank at the plant.

Police, firefighters and hazardous materials personnel responded to the incident. By late afternoon they still had not determined the cause of the deadly accident.

The plant makes chemicals used for treating water and wastewater.

State and local Emergency Management Agency teams were also on scene, said Middlesex Police Department Chief Mike Collins. Wake Electric cut power to the site as a precaution, Collins said.

“There’s a family that’s suffering today – the day after Thanksgiving – and we want to remember them, that’s the main thing,” said Lee Waddell, who was working nearby.

Terry Munson said he was startled when the explosion happened. He lives a quarter of a mile from the plant.

“I was in the living room watching television, and I heard a big bang,” he said. “It blew the door open a little bit.”

“A lot of people around here know Dale,” Munson said. “Real outgoing guy and the nicest fellow you ever want to meet.”

The explosion could be heard and felt in communities from Zebulon to Spring Hope to Bailey.

Waddell did more than hear and feel the explosion. From where he was working nearby, he could see the smoke plume.

“We actually thought something was wrong with our building because the whole roof shook,” he said. “We all ducked down, looked at each other and ran out.”

Pencco’s corporate offices are in Texas. The company also has a location in California.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has taken over the investigation.

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