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One killed, four injured in Lake City Army Ammunition Plant explosion in Independence

One killed, four injured in blast at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant

An explosion at the Lake Army Ammunition Plant in Independence reportedly killed one person and injured four others. OSHA fined the company for workplace safety issues in 2008, 2011 and 2012.
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An explosion at the Lake Army Ammunition Plant in Independence reportedly killed one person and injured four others. OSHA fined the company for workplace safety issues in 2008, 2011 and 2012.

An explosion Tuesday at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence killed one person and injured four others, all employees of the plant’s civilian contractor.

The explosion happened about 1 p.m. in a primer manufacturing building. The four injured employees were evaluated at the scene and refused further treatment, according to officials with the U.S. Army’s Joint Munitions Command.

Officials secured the scene, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives rendered the area safe for an investigation into what caused the explosion.

“First I would like to express my condolences to the family of the Lake City ammunition plant employee who died today,” said Lt. Col. Eric B. Dennis. “Making ammunition is dangerous work, and our employees risk their lives to protect the men and women in uniform. … I am humbled by the ultimate sacrifice this employee made today.”

Dennis did not release the dead worker’s name, saying relatives needed to be notified.

An official for the civilian contractor, Orbital ATK, also expressed condolences.

“We’re a family out here at Lake City, and today we lost a family member,” said Jim Nickels, Orbital’s vice president and general manager at Lake City. “Our hearts truly go out to the family of the member we lost.

“We’re truly saddened.”

The plant remained closed the remainder of Tuesday. Employees were asked to call their building hotline number before returning to work Wednesday.

The plant provides small-caliber munitions and operates the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s test center. Established in December 1940, it began production a year later.

It has been operated since 2000 by Orbital ATK or predecessor companies, ATK Armament Systems and Alliant Techsystems Inc.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for workplace safety issues in 2008, 2011 and 2012.

The largest penalty Alliant paid was $5,600 in 2011, after OSHA cited it for “serious” issues with process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals. That incident exposed 2,800 workers and a drew “gravity 10” rating, the most severe under the agency’s gravity-based penalty system, according to OSHA records.

Previous explosions at Lake City have killed and injured other workers.

In March 2011, an explosion injured six people in a construction area. One worker was flown by helicopter to a local hospital.

In December 1990, a primer mixture exploded as a worker pushed materials down the sides of a bowl with a sponge. The worker died.

In August 1981, a worker loading igniter mix into a van suffered severe burns when 175 pounds of the mix exploded. Raymond C. Still, 46 of Hardin, died at a hospital the next day. A 21-year plant veteran, he was moving the mix, which was inside rubber tubes, from a metal shed to the truck when the explosion happened.

Also, a 1984 explosion started a fire that lasted several hours in a storage building. No injuries were reported.

The plant has a government staff of 29 Army civilians and one soldier to provide contract oversight. The government staff has a payroll of $2.9 million.

Contractor statistics are not available because they are considered to be proprietary.

The plant is on nearly 4,000 acres with 408 buildings, 43 magazines, nine warehouses, 11 igloos and storage capacity of 707,000 square feet.

Missouri Highway Patrol troopers outside of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant after one person was killed and three injured in an explosion at the facility on Tuesday.

Glenn E. Rice: 816-234-4341, @GRicekcstar

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