Update: Tractor-trailer explosion that hurts 1 at Pro Pel Plastech in Deerfield blamed on improper venting

  • Emergency crews were called to the industrial park in South Deerfield after an explosion at Pro Pel Plastech.

  • Emergency crews were called to the industrial park in South Deerfield, Thursday, after an explosion in the back of a tractor-trailer truck. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Emergency crews were called to the industrial park Thursday after chemicals exploded in the back of a tractor trailer truck.

For the Gazette
Thursday, July 13, 2017

SOUTH DEERFIELD — An explosion the morning of July 6 inside a tractor-trailer parked at Pro Pel Plastech in the industrial park off Route 116 sent one person to Springfield’s Baystate Medical Center with minor injuries.

The explosion happened at 4 Industrial Drive East around 8:20 a.m. as the employee was unloading rolls of plastic foam from the trailer into the building. Police said he felt “extreme heat and noticed some blue flame” in the blast, which blew rolls of plastic foam out of the trailer around the vehicle.

He was taken to the hospital as a precaution because of the nature of his injury, with minor burns.

Although chemicals in the truck were properly marked, a preliminary investigation by the state fire marshal’s office determined that “polypropylene foam rolls were off-gassing in (the) trailer, and were not properly vented before offloading. During the process of offloading, most likely, static electricity set off an explosion and flash fire,” said Deerfield Police Officer Adam Sokoloski in a statement.

“This was an accidental explosion, (and) no foul play or suspicious activity was involved,” Sokoloski stated.

A hazardous materials team compared the container’s manifest and shipping documents with what was inside, and found the trailer should have been ventilated for a specified period of time before unloading. Cleanup of the scene was fast, and by 8:40 a.m., police, fire and medical crews could be seen talking to workers and cleaning up equipment around the truck.

“We’re just happy there was only one person with non-life-threatening injuries, and we had a good response,” Sokoloski said at the scene. Emergency crews were there “within a minute” of the emergency call, he said.

Pro Pel Plastech is involved in the recycling of plastics of various sorts, according to the company’s website. State and local police blocked off the eastern entrance to the industrial park. South County EMS sent two ambulances, and the South Deerfield Fire Department was there with a rescue truck. The State Police Commercial Vehicles Section and Troopers from the Shelburne Falls barracks were also called to help out.