Arkansas Gas Tank Explosion Kills 3 Workers

Three workers died Tuesday when an empty gasoline tank undergoing repairs exploded at a storage facility in rural north Arkansas, authorities said.

The explosion occurred just before 2:30 p.m. at a storage facility owned by TEPPCO Partners LP, a Houston-based energy company, said spokesman Rick Rainey. The tank had been previously cleaned and workers had entered it to prepare to install new equipment, Rainey said.

Three workers contracted to do repairs died in the explosion, said Tommy Jackson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. Rainey said the company was in contact with local first responders and federal work safety investigators about the explosion.

"We are going to do a full investigation," Rainey said.

Elizabeth Todd, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Dallas, did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.

The TEPPCO facility, just east of U.S. 67, stores diesel and unleaded gasoline for clients, Rainey said. The facility has five tanks with a capacity of 250,000 barrels, Rainey said.

The explosion came as a series of thunderstorms rolled through Arkansas. The National Weather Service at North Little Rock recorded no instances of lightning in the area at the time of the explosion, according to forecaster Chuck Rickard.