One Killed During Major Explosion At Cantonment Airgas Plant

August 29, 2016

One person was killed as a major explosion ripped through the Airgas facility next to the Ascend Performance Materials plant on Old Chemstrand Road in Cantonment just after noon Sunday. There were no other injuries or fatalities.

About 12:15 p.m., multiple agencies from across Escambia County responded to the Airgas facility. First responders reported a major explosion with an area of significant structural collapse. The area was described a “mini-war zone”.

The gas that exploded was nitrous oxide, some of which was released into the atmosphere but did not pose any threat to the public. There were no gasses or chemicals released outside the industrial facility. There were no evacuations or shelter in place orders issued for residents living near the plant.

The Ascend plant supplies a mixture of gases to the Airgas plant, which Airgas uses to make nitrous oxide.

“Ascend personnel and contractors are all safe and accounted for at this time. Ascend’s site operations continue to operate safety,” Ascend said in a written statement.  “Ascend is currently working with local authorities and first responders…Ascend’s facilities located near the event may have sustained some damage, which Ascend will assess after the completion of all necessary emergency response procedures.”

As emergency workers, assisted by an Ascend response team, secured the area made sure there was no risk of an additional explosions, it was determined that one Airgas employee was missing. After an extensive search, his body was recovered after 6 p.m. His name has not yet been released.

Residents across the area reported feeling the blast, including Amy Hayes.

“My property borders the plant, the closest one to it. I was outside when I felt the blast… it was like a movie, feeling the heat blast/wave that literally pushes into your body. It blew the wooden frames off our windows. The plume was immediate and after not knowing what the smell was … confirming that it was nitrous of some sort and could be dangerous,” Hayes said, adding that she evacuated with her children and dogs. “It was a major explosion and I never want to feel that again.”

The investigation is under the lead of the Florida State Marshal’s Office.  Other agencies that responded to the scene included Escambia County Fire Rescue, Escambia County Emergency Management, Escambia County EMS, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Escambia Search and Rescue, the ATF, Florida Highway Patrol, the Trauma Intervention Program on Northwest Florida, and K-9 teams from the Century Correctional Institution.

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29 Responses to “One Killed During Major Explosion At Cantonment Airgas Plant”

  1. Janice on August 29th, 2016 3:04 pm

    Our church congregation at Kingsfield and Chemstrand Roads heard and felt the blast as our pastor was ending our morning worship service. It was as if a jet had broken the sound barrier. We’re praying for all those involved and mourning the loss of the one. So sad! (Also proud of the response of the several emergency teams!)

  2. Gina on August 29th, 2016 2:05 pm

    Prayers for the family’s of the lost loved one :-(

  3. Betty Bryant on August 29th, 2016 1:07 pm

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of a young man that is known to our family. My heart goes out to his family. So sad.

  4. Teena Smith on August 29th, 2016 12:55 pm

    Thought and prayers to the family and loved ones of the man who died. God Bless

  5. Odom on August 29th, 2016 11:18 am

    My prayers go out to all the friends and family of the AirGas employee. I have known him nearly all my life and still can not believe this has happened.

    The plume of gas seen in the photos appears to be venting from a thermal oxidizer that was shut down from the explosion. Those gasses, if that is what is venting, are NCGs and SOGs. Before the installation of this device, industrial plants regularly vented these gasses.

  6. Erik on August 29th, 2016 10:05 am

    NITROUS OXIDE is colorless. Nitrogen Dioxide is orange in color. As an environmental tester we are always told to stay away from the orange/brown clouds…..

  7. Vince on August 29th, 2016 9:56 am

    My prayers go out to the Airgas employee and his family.

  8. anne on August 29th, 2016 8:35 am

    Only the Lord knows what day we are coming home. Gone on a Sunday, I hope there is a healing for the family on that thought. I hope it brings all of the neighbors closer too. We really do need each other.

  9. naomi on August 29th, 2016 8:17 am

    My heart and prayers go out to the family of the man who passed away.

  10. Bubba Peters on August 29th, 2016 12:08 am

    Please pray for the family who has lost a husband, son, brother, friend! God Bless you and your family! Another GOOD MAN gone from the class of 2002!

  11. Lifendason on August 28th, 2016 10:24 pm

    I was in church this morning when the doors rattled. We thought a train had derailed. Praying for everyone there and the family that loss.

  12. Rev. Gene on August 28th, 2016 8:06 pm

    Confirmed, Please pray for the family of a young man found in the rubble… they are devastated for sure. May God have mercy on them at this difficult time.

  13. Dee on August 28th, 2016 6:35 pm

    The explosion shook my house on west kingsfield road. All my neighbors came outside to see what it was. It was pretty intense!

  14. Grandma on August 28th, 2016 6:09 pm

    Felt the tremor and heard our windows raddle this morning early. Came from that direction. Are all AIRGAS personnel accounted for?

  15. Rosa on August 28th, 2016 5:12 pm

    Thanks to all of the first responders that responded to the explosion out at Acend/Air Gas. Pray that all have good news.

  16. David on August 28th, 2016 2:19 pm

    The smoke you see in this picture in NOT fire. It’s Nitrous Oxide venting. Normal under off-line conditions

  17. Anonymous on August 28th, 2016 2:10 pm

    How can they contain a Chemical that has gone up in air?

  18. SD on August 28th, 2016 2:02 pm

    Omg praying everyone is okay! My family and I live off Kingsfield Road and heard the explosion; the entire house and ground shook!

  19. Chris on August 28th, 2016 1:59 pm

    Very loud explosion. It made the entire house shake and window rattle. Wish more info was known and if chemicals were released into the atmosphere.

  20. Alice J Spencer on August 28th, 2016 1:56 pm

    So sorry to hear of this explosion. Hope no injuries occured. I have family that live down Old Chemstrand Rd. I use to work at Chemstrand. Please keep me informed of this happening. Thanks again for the report.

  21. Laura cook on August 28th, 2016 1:51 pm

    I was outside doing yard work northwest in cantonment fl. about 1hr or so ago and a explosion made me take a step back. We live about 7 miles northwest right off 95 a in cottage Hill area . Thank you very much for the report no other media on Tv or radio is addressing this on air live to the community. That yellow smoke is not good for commuity

  22. B on August 28th, 2016 1:50 pm

    It seems a Vessel exploded at Airgas, hope all is ok!

  23. Neighbor on August 28th, 2016 1:33 pm

    I’m hearing it was a Vessel explosion at the AirGas plant next door.

  24. 429SCJ on August 28th, 2016 1:32 pm

    Heard the explosion, but felt little effect.

    Prayers for all involved.

  25. Bill on August 28th, 2016 1:26 pm

    Evidently no evacuation of the surrounding area was necessary, so it can’t be too bad

  26. Kathy on August 28th, 2016 1:25 pm


  27. Sedition on August 28th, 2016 1:10 pm

    I was wondering what that was. The whole house shook and I thought the doors were going to rattle off of their hinges…and I’m all the way over between West Roberts and Kingsfield.

  28. Patricia Dennis on August 28th, 2016 1:10 pm

    We live about 2 or 3 miles away off of Chemstrand Road and felt the explosion at our house. The windows and front door of our house shook. We thought it was thunder. So scary. Praying everyone is alright.

  29. Megan on August 28th, 2016 1:04 pm

    My mom and dad have been told to leave the area and they live off of Millcreek road near the golf course

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