Four dead after Washington refinery fire

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

An overnight explosion and fire at a Washington State oil refinery in Anacortes, Washington, United States, a city about 80 miles south of Vancouver, Canada, yesterday killed four people and critically injured three others.

A Tesoro Corp. refinery caught fire at about 0030 local time (0830 GMT) while maintenance work was being performed in preparation for returning a part of the plant to operation in a dangerous procedure involving increasing heat and pressure in the unit involved. Some people reportedly felt the explosion, which sent flames as high as the tower in the refinery, from as far as five miles away. The fire, whose cause is not yet known, burned for around an hour and a half before being extinguished.

Initially, Tesoro announced that three people had died in the fire. According to a spokesperson from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a fourth person, a 29-year-old woman, later died from her injuries at the hospital, while three other people, a woman and two men, all remain in critical condition with major burns. Three of the dead were named as Matthew Bowen, Darren Hoines and Daniel Aldridge, while the person who died in the hospital has not been identified. According to CNN, three workers are still missing, and a search has begun for them.

The incident was the first fire at an oil refinery in Anacortes since 2007, when a fire at the Shell Puget Sound Refinery damaged a storage, resulting in three minor injuries. A Tesoro-owned refinery was involved in another fire in 2002, also with no reported injuries.