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Explosion Kills Two, Dozens Injured

A powerful explosion Monday night collapsed part of the building as employees screamed inside. Two workers were believed killed and dozens were injured.

Rescue crews combed through the rubble at the York International Corp. plant early today, but everyone had been accounted for. Several hundred workers were inside when the blast came during the 11:30PM shift change.

The blast killed two people and seriously injured at least seven, White Rose Ambulance officials said. York County emergency services spokesman Patrick McFadden would confirm only one death.

The factory makes refrigeration, heating, and air conditioning units, and witnesses said a vapor plume above the plant was burning the eyes and throats of people nearby. But McFadden said no toxic substances were released.

"It just blew us the hell across the room," said Dennis Wolfe, who was working in the factory when the explosion happened.

"We heard guys screaming...It rolled us across the floor. You ought to see the inside. It knocked down the walls. The ceiling lights fell out."

Workers said the explosion was in a building where Freon tanks are stored. The chemical is used in air conditioning units.

Several hundred workers were evacuated from the plant, a sprawl of small, one-room buildings on the edge of York.

Police warned doctors at York Hospital to expect about 50 injured people, spokesman Barry Sparks said.

Residents described an initial loud boom, followed by a smaller blast. The initial explosion was heard at least 25 miles away. Large metal chunks of debris littered streets up to 12 blocks away in this city 115 miles west of Philadelphia.

"There was a big, blue flash in the sky. It shook my apartment. The sky was lit up blue," said Pete Miller, who lives four blocks from the plant.

Authorities learned of the blast after an alarm went off at York College, about a mile from the plant. Dormitories were cleared for about 30 minutes just after the explosion, when power went out.

"The boom was loud enough it must have knocked out power in the area. And when the power goes down fire alarms often go off," said a York County 911 dispatcher who would not give his name.

York International was number 419 on the Fortune 500 list last year, with $3.219 billion in 1996 sales. The company employs about 2,000 people in York and 21,000 worldwide.

Written by Peter Durantine Associated Press Writer
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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