Minden Press-Herald

Thursday
Oct 02nd

Blast draws fast reaction

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Explosion was second in less than a month

After an explosion Tuesday morning at Camp Minden, GOEX Powder Inc., reacted quickly, following procedures for explosions and calling a press conference.

"We got a call just after the explosion happened and were given accurate information immediately," said Webster Parish Sheriff's Chief Deputy Bobby Igo, Jr.. "I feel like GOEX has done a great job of communicating with us and others."

Tim Vaitekunas, Chief Operations Officer for GOEX Powder Inc., held a press conference at Camp Minden approximately two and a half hours after the explosion.

"It took four minutes for us to ensure our personnel were safe," Vaitekuna said. "At that time, we began contacting more than 20 regulators and entities as part of our procedure, which is common in our industry."

Three GOEX representatives were responsible for making the phone calls to 9-1-1, Camp Minden, Louisiana National Guard, Louisiana State Troopers, the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms and others.

"After that, we began assessing the area for other potential fires and threats," Vaitekuna said. "You cannot immediately enter the area after an explosion. There may be a fire you don't see.

"So one of the things we do is have a set period of time where we monitor the area, looking for more or less smoke, which way the smoke is moving and where it is originating from," he continued. "The last thing we want is the loss of life, so we gather as much information as we can before entering the area."

Tuesday morning's wait lasted one hour before smoke dissipated and the area was entered. The explosion happened in an unmanned area, at the beginning of the production operations in area "G," and did not occur in the magazine or bunker areas leased by GOEX.

"The fire extinguishing system was activated and did function, as it should," Louisiana State Police Trooper Matt Harris said yesterday. "No one was hurt. We do have two technicians here along with other personnel from other agencies who are investigating to conduct a follow-up investigation of the explosion."

GOEX Powder, Inc. manufactures black powder on leased property at Camp Minden.

"The explosion was not that big, but it was an explosion," Vaitekuna said. "The procedure is to do a full investigation and determine what happened and make corrective actions based on what is found."

GOEX Powder, Inc. had an explosion on June 7 of 2011.

"There are several operations and even different areas of the plant," said Vaitekuna. "The explosion that happened in 2011 and the one yesterday were in no way similar, other than they were both explosions."

GOEX has a long history of making the product, which can be traced back to 1802.

"We make a hazardous material, so we try and make the operation as safe as possible," Vaitekuna said. "There are procedures in place; procedures are based on regulatory requirements and things we have learned in making this product.

"Those procedures and policies dictate what we do every step of the way," he continued. "We are always changing and improving our policies and procedures."

Another Camp Minden tenant, Explo Systems had an above-ground magazine storage facility explode last month at Camp Minden.

Explo officials never released the cause of the explosion to the public.

 

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