Gas Distributor In Fatal Explosion Issues Nationwide WarningAP , Associated Press
Mar. 22, 1988 5:08 PM ET
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) _ A gas distribution company has warned customers nationwide that cylinders of silane gas may have been contaminated the same way as one that exploded, killing three people, officials said Tuesday.
Liquid Carbonic Industries Corp. of Chicago issued the warning Monday that the cylinders of silane may have been contaminated with an unstable oxidizer, said Dewey Erzinger, the company's director of public relations.
Erzinger said he could not estimate the number Liquid Carbonic customers across the country, but said most are in the electronics industry. The company manufactures industrial and medical gases, such as silane, which is widely used to coat silicon wafers.
Erzinger said company officials are investigating the origin of the cylinder that exploded Thursday at the Gollob Analytical Services plant, killing three people and seriously injuring a fourth.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has tentatively traced the cylinder - believed to contain a volatile mixture of nitrous oxide and silane - through three states before it reached Berkeley Heights.
The exact cause of the blast remains unknown, say officials with the DEP and Liquid Carbonics.
In its note to its customers, Liquid Carbonic said the explosion may have been caused by some kind of oxidizer being drawn back into the cylinder.
''If your process utilizes silane gas product in conjunction with oxidizers, such as nitrous oxide or oxygen, you are urged to make certain that oxidizers cannot be drawn back into your silane gas container,'' the notice said.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Liquid Carbonic completed removal of 300 cylinders of silane from its Harrison plant, Erzinger said. He said the company may conduct similar removals at other plants around the country.
On Monday, nearly 1,000 workers were held off their jobs on the San Francisco Peninsula after canisters containing potentially explosive chemicals were discovered at semiconductor facilities there.
Chemical inspectors eventually concluded that the four canisters at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in Santa Clara and Teledyne Semiconductor in Mountain View were harmless.
A similar precautionary evacuation took place Sunday in Pocatello, Idaho, when officials of the Gould Inc.'s semiconductor plant examined silane cylinders belonging to Liquid Carbonic.
One of the men killed in Thursday's blast, Dennis Feeney, was a regional manager for Liquid Carbonic at the company's Harrison facility. The two others killed were Gollob employees.
A Liquid Carbonic deliveryman, James Diemer, lost a leg and suffered shrapnel wounds. He was in fair condition Tuesday in the plastic surgery ward of Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.