Chemical Explosion at Indiana Engine Plant Leaves 26 Hospitalized

At least 26 people were treated at a hospital and more than 300 were evacuated from a southern Indiana engine plant after an explosion released hydrochloric acid gas Thursday, authorities said.

State police spokesman Sgt. Chad Dick said none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
Dick and Crawford County Sheriff Tim Wilkerson said at least 26 people were taken to nearby Harrison County Hospital. It was not clear how many might have gone to other area hospitals, but about 31 complained of respiratory problems, Wilkerson said.

The gas was confined to the plant and did not threaten the surrounding area, Wilkerson said.
Authorities said between 16 and 25 people were decontaminated at the scene, a process that involves changing clothes and washing. Dick said they likely were the same ones who went to the hospital.

Workers were mixing chemicals when a cloud of hydrochloric acid gas was accidentally created, authorities said.

Hydrochloric acid is highly corrosive and is often used in metal and plastics work.
Exposure can irritate the eyes and skin and cause respiratory problems and dizziness. In extreme cases, death can occur.

Some nearby residents left the area when they learned of the accident but later returned, Wilkerson said.

A hazardous materials team was sent to the plant in Carefree, about 35 miles west of Louisville, Ky., Dick said.

Jasper Engines employs about 1,600 people at locations in Jasper and Crawford County. The company refurbishes engines and transmissions.