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Safety Agency Issues Final Report On Fatal 2020 Optima Belle Explosion

An industrial building blown apart by an explosion with debris and twisted pipe.
Damage from the Dec. 8, 2020, explosion at Optima Belle.
Chemical Safety Board

Federal safety regulators have issued their final report on a fatal 2020 explosion in Kanawha County.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigated the Dec. 8, 2020, explosion at Optima Belle that killed one worker and caused $33 million in damage.

It found that the company used an incorrect process for drying a chemical compound that when overheated, could cause a reaction that exceeded the design pressure of the dryer unit.

Optima Belle had contracted with Clearon to perform the drying work, but investigators found that Clearon did not communicate industry guidance to Optima Belle.

It also found that regulations do not sufficiently address the potential for reactive hazards.

It recommended that the companies improve their process safety management systems.

The worker, John Gillenwater, was found alive in the rubble but later died of his injuries.