Plant explosion victims to speak

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Victims of last month's explosion at Depressurized Technologies International Inc. in Minden will speak Monday with Sen. Randolph Townsend and other community leaders in an effort to protect others from similar experiences.

Raul Gonzalez, who was injured and lost a brother because of the explosion, is expected to ask for help in assuring this doesn't happen to other workers, said a press release from the Alliance for Workers' Rights.

Gonzalez was injured and his brother, Jaime Gonzalez, died Sept. 25 from injuries sustained in the Sept. 17 blast.

Raul Gonzalez and three others were injured during an explosion at the plant which recycles gases from aerosol cans. A fifth employee entered the room as it was happening, and several smaller blasts followed as the cans exploded.

"The visible wounds of Gonzalez and his co-workers add a sense of urgency to this discussion," said the press release.

Raul Gonzalez, his brother Jaime Gonzalez, Susano Lopez, Cellio San Juan and Elias San Juan were at work at 7:40 p.m. at the plant, where discarded aerosol cans are prepared for recycling, when an unknown source ignited the propane or butane fumes that fills the cans.

Townsend will discuss how he and a committee of leaders and lawmakers will move forward with an inquiry and possible legislative action.

Workers' rights groups say earlier reforms involving businesses dealing with hazardous materials are not being taken seriously.

State regulatory changes made after two deadly blasts in 1998 seem to have been forgotten, said Tom Stoneburner, director of Reno-based Alliance for Workers' Rights.

"We're going to have to go back to the drawing board and get it right," he said. "We can't keep exposing our workers to these kinds of things when we send our families off to work every day."

The southeast corner of the single-story building in the Meridian Business Park sustained about $50,000 in damage and one-quarter of the metal roof was blown off by the blast.

DTI has occupied the 4-year-old building at the west end of Park Place off Airport Road for about six months.

East Fork Fire Capt. Terry Taylor said the investigation into what caused the explosion continues and that he has yet to interview San Juan, who remains in the Las Vegas burn unit.

"He's doing much better," Taylor said. "I hope to interview him after next week."

The investigation has been slow because of the severity of the victims' wounds.

Taylor said since the explosion the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors' Authority and the Douglas County Building Industry Association are looking at ways to help document businesses in the Carson Valley area. The county does not require business licenses or track businesses when they move into new buildings. Though the buildings are inspected by the fire department when they are first built.

"It doesn't have anything to do with the fire department except that we're saying we need something," he said.

Firefighters responded to the site with no information about what was inside.

Since the Sept. 17 explosion, another tragedy this time in a Las Vegas hobby rocket company, sent three workers to the hospital with life-threatening burns.

In 1998, an explosion at Sierra Chemical, an explosives manufacturing plant east of Reno, killed four workers and injured six, while the another explosion at Pacific Engineering and Production Co. in Henderson, killed two people and injured more than 300.

Victims of the DTI tragedy are being cared for financially by the state's industrial relation's department which will pay them 65 percent of their wages as long as they are unable to work, 100 percent of all medical cost and death benefits.


Donations may be made to help surviving burn victims at any Bank of America, account number 004964151075. The money will be divided evenly among the men.


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