United States Chemical Safety
and Hazard Investigation Board
Charged in Fatal Minden Aerosol Plant Blast
NV, United States
of Report Update
- 12:39 PM
or Latest Development
Information Added: Friday, March 1, 2002
- 12:44 PM
The owner of an aerosol can recycling plant
where an explosion killed and injured employees
last year has been charged with two felony
counts of neglect and other charges alleging
failure to maintain a safe workplace.
Deputy District Attorney Mike McCormick
filed two class C felony counts against
Walter Gonzales, owner of De-Pressurized
Technologies International Inc., for ``neglect
of duty in willful or wanton disregard of
safety of persons or property.''
Gonzales also faces misdemeanor counts for
failing to provide a hazardous materials
management plan, explosion-proof wiring
and a workplace free from hazards likely
to cause death or serious physical harm.
He's also accused of failing to provide
approved ventilation and exhaust systems,
systems for dilution of flammable gases
and systems to prevent accumulation of static
If convicted, Gonzales could be sentenced
to as many as 10 years in prison.
An investigation ``revealed that the recycling
machine was not being used on the night
of Sept. 17, 2001. Instead, the employees
were confined to a metal cargo container
box within the building with a ventilation
system that consisted of a wooden hood and
electric fan. Gonzales stated that he designed
the system to remove the flammable gases
that were released from the punctured cans.''
According to the report, gases had collected
to the point where ``employees were literally
saturated in explosive gas. ``Possible ignition
sources for the explosion are the electric
motor powered forklift, ventilation fan
electric motor, or static electricity,''
the report states. ``The burn injuries,
which are from the feet up, are consistent
with a fuel vapor explosion.''
Information Added: Friday, December 7, 2001
- 10:17 AM
Depressurized Technologies International
Inc. was sued in federal court Wednesday
(12/05/2001) following an explosion at its
Minden plant that caused the death of one
worker and severe burns for several others.
The lawsuit was filed by Reno lawyers Jeff
Dickerson and James Boles on behalf of Raul
Gonzales Sanchez, Cecilio San Juan and Elias
San Juan, all burned in the Sept. 17 explosion.
The lawyers also represent Paula Lopez Bautista,
widow of Jaimie Gonzales Sanchez who died
following the blast.
The lawsuit seeks at least $225,000 in damages
plus fees and costs, but Dickerson said
that's a statutory minimum and "I wouldn't
be surprised if we're in the millions by
the time we get to trial."
The U.S. District Court lawsuit alleges
Depressurized Technologies was negligent
in failing to train the workers properly
and gave them an "unprotected task that
was inherently dangerous."
The litigation follows $144,000 in fines
levied by the state's Occupational Safety
and Health Enforcement Section.
Information Added: Wednesday, November 14,
2001 - 3:26 PM
Depressurized Technologies International
Inc. has been hit with $144,000 in fines
following an explosion at its Minden plant
that resulted in the death of one worker
and severe burns for four others.
The state's Occupational Safety and Health
Enforcement Section, or OSHES, cited the
company for numerous willful and serious
violations of federal and state laws designed
to protect workers. Violations ranged from
ignoring hazardous processes and not taking
necessary precautions to not providing medical
evaluations or protective gear and not keeping
records of work-related injuries. OSHES
chief Tom Czehowski also said owners of
the company failed to properly register
Raul Gonzales, one of the seriously burned
workers, has said the explosion occurred
while workers were recycling liquids from
the bottom of aerosol cans by punching holes
in the bottom of cans with a spike.
But attorney Noel Manoukian, representing
DPI owner Walter Gonzalez, said a worker
may have sparked the deadly blast by removing
a protective device from a machine. The
lawyer also disputed claims that the workers
were improperly trained and lacked supervision.
Information Added: Tuesday, October 2, 2001
- 11:57 AM
A coalition of community groups is calling
on Gov. Kenny Guinn to establish a commission
to investigate workplace safety.
The group also claims earlier reforms involving
the regulation of businesses dealing with
hazardous materials have not been taken
The coalition's request was prompted by
the fatal explosion two weeks ago at Depressurized
Technologies International, an aerosol recycling
plant in Minden, said Tom Stoneburner, director
of Reno-based Alliance for Workers' Rights.
One worker, Jamie Gonzales, 34, died last
Tuesday at the burn unit at University Medical
Center in Las Vegas. Another victim remains
hospitalized in Las Vegas and three are
at University of California at Davis Medical
Center in Sacramento.
At a news conference Monday, Stoneburner
said state regulatory changes made after
another deadly blast in 1998 involving hazardous
materials seem to have been forgotten.
That explosion at Sierra Chemical, an explosives
manufacturing plant east of Reno, killed
four workers and injured six. The
incident was the subject of an investigation
and comprehensive report by the Chemical
Safety Board. That report is
available on the CSB website at http://www.chemsafety.gov.
``This is a reocurring nightmare,'' Stoneburner
said. ``We can't keep putting our residents
at risk and exposing them to this kind of
He was joined by representatives of the
League of United Latin American Citizens,
the Nevada Hispanic Coalition, the Reno-Sparks
Chapter of the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People, the American
Civil Liberties Union and St. Gall Catholic
Church in Gardnerville.
The advocates for workers' safety also brought
up the 1988 explosion at Pacific Engineering
and Production Co. in Henderson, in which
two people were killed and more than 300
``Three times we've seen this in our state.
How many more will there be?'' asked Nick
Martinez, deputy state director of LULAC.
Regulatory guidelines ordered by then-Gov.
Bob Miller _ with help from a 13-member
state commission _ and subsequent reforms
approved by the 1999 Nevada Legislature,
need to be strictly followed to help avoid
future disasters, Stoneburner said.
The changes focused on workplace training
and plant inspections. ``A lot of people
put a lot of effort into these reforms,''
Stoneburner said. ``Now we're hearing some
things haven't been implemented and perhaps
funding isn't even available.
``The tools are there. It's essential for
them to be used.'' He urged Guinn to bring
state agencies such as the Attorney Generals
Office, the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration and the Division of Environmental
Protection together with political and community
leaders to deal with the issue.
Guinn spokesman Brian Catlett said the governor
will consider the group's request.
In the case of the Minden plant, fire officials
didn't know what kind of manufacturing operation
they were responding to when they were called
to the scene of the explosion.
Annual fire inspections are required of
commercial buildings in Douglas County,
but inspectors hadn't gotten to Depressurized
before the explosion.
The business passed an inspection by state
environmental regulators a few weeks before
One of the burn victims has told authorities
the workers were not adequately trained
or supervised. But company owners Walter
Gonzalez and his wife, Doris, contend proper
training was provided.
Training was an issue after the Sierra Chemical
explosion, when Latino workers, many who
spoke little or no English, said they weren't
given proper safety instructions.
One of the measures passed by the 1999 Legislature
required workers to get annual safety training
in their own language.
INFORMATION ADDED 9/19/2001
Five people were injured following a series
of explosions at a plant near Minden-Tahoe
The first explosion at Depressurized Technologies
International Inc. occurred around 7:40
p.m. Monday, according to Dick Mirgon, Douglas
County's emergency management director.
Several other blasts occurred in the moments
that followed, blowing off the roof of the
building, Mirgon said.
According to the company's website, DTI
extracts paint and other solvents from aerosol
containers for recycling.
The victims suffered second- and third-degree
burns and were flown to burn units in Davis,
Calif., and Las Vegas, where they were listed
in critical but stable condition, officials
About 80 firefighters from Douglas County
and Carson City responded to the scene.
Mirgon said it took about an hour to get
the fire under control.
Hazardous materials teams were also called.
Mirgon said state and federal officials
would be involved in the investigation into
the cause of the blast.
( * indicates the original source)
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