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At least 6 workers injured at Blue Rhino facility in Central Florida


Published On: Jul 30 2013 12:34:10 AM EDT Updated On: Jul 30 2013 08:17:29 AM EDT
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PROPANE PIC
TAVARES, Fla. -
Eight people were injured -- four critically -- late Monday night in a series of massive explosions at a Blue Rhino propane facility in Tavares -- about 40 miles northwest of Orlando.

The blasts, which continued for about four hours, began around 11 p.m. at the gas plant located on County Road 448, prompting evacuations of homes and businesses within a mile of the facility. The evacuation order was later lifted.

About two dozen workers were at the plant when the explosions occurred and all were accounted for after it was initially believed that 15 employees were missing or trapped.

IMAGES: Explosions at Blue Rhino propane plant

Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders said the blasts occurred inside the plant and blew the roof off the building. The explosions were so big that they showed up on radar, with a green swath showing the change in temperatures.

Aerial footage of the scene early Tuesday morning showed fires burning over a large area, with flames and plumes of smoke shooting into the night sky.

More than 50,000 propane cylinders -- similar to ones used for back yard grills -- were scattered throughout the plant and caught fire, each exploding into the air. Witnesses said the 20-pound tanks shot up to 300 feet in the air.

"At one point in time it was really big. Then it dies down and then about 5 minutes ago, it blew up. It blew up again even worse, so hopefully it'll keep dying down," said witness Cody Rhoades.

It was the first day on the job for Bobby Hutsenpiller, who was less than 100 yards from the first explosion inside the facility.

"I was so scared. I didn't want to look back," said Hutsenpiller, who added that he ran for his life.

No first responders were injured in the incident. The injured workers were taken to several area hospitals.

The cause of the blasts is under investigation.

The Blue Rhino plant in Tavares was established in 1994 and refills and distributes 20-gallon tanks of propane. The facility cleans used tanks, refinishes them and refills them before sending them back to stores.

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