A VIOLENT STORM SYSTEM swept across Harris County, Texas, Saturday afternoon and a lightning strike from it is being blamed for triggering an explosion and fire at an oil storage facility.
The incident began around 3:15 pm in a Houston suburb and the first-arriving units found "several" of the storage tanks ablaze.
"Several of them look like they did explode," said Dean Hensley, with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office. "The other tanks are still intact, but obviously the fluids and oils inside the tanks are still burning." That information was later updated to report that six tanks of various sizes had exploded.
The dispatch went to 2 alarms and the fire was easily knocked down by the FD. A protective foam blanket was applied around the entire area to prevent any hot spots from igniting.
Around 7:40 a.m., a loud explosion occurred at the Air Liquide plant at 11450 W. Fairmont Parkway, just west of Bay Area Boulevard. The blast, which occurred in a metal building on the site, triggered a fire that filled the area with heavy smoke. About 15 to 20 employees were believed to be on site at the time, a company spokesman said.
Rescue workers brought in heavy equipment and searched for hours before recovering the body. "There's been a lot of structural collapse inside so we've got a lot of safety issues," said Lt. Dean Hensley with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office.
Gases, including oxygen, nitrogen and argon, are mixed at the plant into cylinders that are used in the processing of such items as food, beverages and electronics, according to a company spokesman.
Air Liquide describes itself as "the world leader in gases for industry, health and the environment." Headquartered in Houston, the company has more than 200 locations, including about 130 gas plants and 2,000 miles of pipeline, the website states.
KPRC-TV provided some raw video from the blast site:
Between 10 to 20 employees were inside the plant, and soon after it happened, we got word that one worker had been injured and another was missing. Search crews spent the next several hours searching for him — until finally, a body was discovered Saturday evening.
Dean Hensley with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office said the medical examiner hasn't yet identified the body. But late Saturday evening, his family says they received word from authorities that 30-year-old Javier Ortiz is the worker that was found dead.
"We just ask for prayers for our family, from Houstonians and for God to help us in this difficult time," his wife, Julie Ortiz said. She says she and her husband have three children, aged 3, 5, and 7.
"I just want everyone to know he's a wonderful father of three and he's loved very much," she said. "We're very active in our church. We're good people. He's a chemist and I'm a teacher at a high school."
Emergency responders used a canine unit from CyFair Fire Department, heavy equipment and a HAZMAT team to search for him, but the mission wasn't easy. In fact, his body was still buried under the rubble by 10pm Saturday. Investigators say they're having trouble getting it out.
A second employee was injured the blast. He was taken by LifeFlight to UTMB's burn unit in Galveston, where his family says he is in critical condition.
That man's family say he's suffered burns to more than 75 percent of his body, and he's not speaking right now. They say the victim worked at the plant for at least 10 years and has two daughters.
KTRK-TV also filed this video report:
KTRK-TV has additional details and more videos posted HERE.
A MASSIVE STOLEN AMBULANCE SCHEME was uncovered Monday when a tiny, hidden GPS tracker started sending its signal and directed the Houston, Texas, police to a scrapyard. There they found several piles of crushed ambulances and others lined up awaiting the same fate.
Apparently all of them belonged to three private ambulance companies in the Houston area. Over the past month, they have had 40 ambulances stolen and no leads on what or who was taking place. KTRK-TV reports:
"They see a good, nice-looking ambulance, running ambulance, and they crush it," said Darlington Ofuefle with Greater Houston EMS Inc.
The men told us they own Baytex EMS, Life Care EMS, and Greater Houston EMS Inc. They say each of their southwest Houston area private ambulance companies have been getting hit pretty hard by unknown auto thieves.
"This ring has been going on for the past one month. And last week, they stole one of my vehicles," said Isopehi.
The men told us they started putting tracking devices in their remaining fleet last week. Then on Monday morning, they got an alert the stolen trucks were at Texas Port Recycling, so they called police.
"I mean, it stopped our business, and the money invested in it, too. It's, like, gone," said Ofuefle.
Undercover investigators tell Eyewitness News they have one suspect in custody. They say it appears the culprits were selling the trucks for $500 and $700 at the scrap yard. The victims say their emergency vehicles are worth much more.
* * *
KTRK-TV Ch. 13 sent a camera crew and their helicopter to the site and filed this video report Monday:
A HOUSTON, TEXAS, FIRE DEPT. AMBULANCE WAS TOTALLED Monday morning when an SUV slammed into it at speed around 4:30 am Central. An HFD rescue squad was assisting the ambulance crew with a heart attack victim who had just been put into the back of the ambulance when the crash occurred.
KHOU-TV tells us:
Five firefighters and EMS workers have been taken to hospitals, all with injuries. They are said to be in stable condition.
The patient and the family member of that patient were also transferred to a hospital. They are listed in stable condition as well.
"They had been on scene 20 minutes. They had the patient in the back of the ambulance. They had one next of kin in the front seat that was going to the hospital with them," said Jay Evans with the Houston Fire Department. " There was an SUV going westbound on Holman that struck head-on with the ambulance."
The driver of the SUV was killed instantly, but fortunately none of the other victims have been reported as seriously injured.
HOUSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT SENIOR CAPTAIN Thomas "Bill" Dillion, 49, collapsed while working a kitchen fire Wednesday morning and was pronounced dead a short while later at the hospital.
Captain Dillion had 22 years service on the FD and is
the 64th Houston firefighter to die in the line of duty.
Reports say that the fire on a cooking stove was almost out when the FD arrived. Capt. Dillion was just entering the premises when he collapsed. The fire itself is not a factor in his death, but the department and the union are both saying that it appears to have been a heart attack. An autopsy is being performed today to determine the cause.
KUHF-FM has the details HERE.
KHOU-TV has a photo gallery HERE.
Houston Firefighters Local 341 WEBSITE.
Firefighters and paramedics lined the roads and freeways of Houston Wednesday
to honor a HFD Captain Thomas Dillion, of Fire Station 69, who collapsed and died
at the scene of a kitchen fire after complaining of chest pains.
An ambulance, accompanied by a police and fire escort, carried Dillion’s body
from the hospital to the medical examiner after he passed away. (KHOU-TV)
A HOUSTON WOMAN WAS DETERMINED TO KEEP here appointment with her hairdresser Friday. As she was pulling into a parking space, her car kept on going and plowed right through the front wall of a vacant office next door to the Hair Say salon where she was heading.
KPRC-TV tells us,
The driver was trying to park next to the "Hair Say" salon on West T. C. Jester at 18th Street around 1 p.m. when she told police her brakes stopped working. Her four-door Lexus smashed through the glass front door and mowed down a 20-foot section of glass, wiping out the waiting room of a vacant business and landing with the back bumper 6 feet inside the business.
Paramedics responded and checked her out, and they told Local 2 Investigates she promptly walked next door for her scheduled haircut before police even arrived. Medics and police described her as a woman in her 70's.
The woman identified by police as the driver said she had nothing to say to reporters, and hair stylists at the salon said she would not come out of the building until news cameras were gone. She then left through a back door with relatives.
Before that, she could be seen in a stylist's chair near a hairdryer, answering questions from police officers. No citations were issued.
KHOU-TV posted some raw video taken from their helicopter:
Channel 2 has the full story and a better video report from the scene HERE.
A CHANNELVIEW FIRE DEPARTMENT (Houston area) fire engine collided with a pickup truck at an intersection in Bayview, Texas, Saturday afternoon. The engine was responding on an assist call to a working house fire when it was struck in the front right corner by a pickup truck in an intersection.
The driver of the pickup along with a female and one child that were also in the cab were airlifted to local hospitals with non-life threatening injuries. The three firefighters on the engine were uninjured, however the pumper had extensive damage to the front end. The pickup truck appears to be totaled.
KHOU-TV filed this video report from the scene:
At the time of this posting there was no information yet on the cause of the accident.
HOUSTON, TEXAS, FIREFIGHTERS FACED a pair of apartment building fires just minutes apart in the same area Thursday morning.
KPRC-TV image taken at the second fire.
The first fire call came in shortly after 7 am Central and had smoke showing from several units. Interior operations appeared to be effective so far and has probably been contained. Units are still on the scene and not information has been released yet.
Update: It has been reported that a 2nd alarm was struck for this fire.
A half-hour later at 7:34 am, a larger fire was reported in another complex and has extended through the roof and involves three buildings. This incident has been raised to 2 alarms so far and is still working. KRIV-TV has some good aerial footage from this second fire:
TUESDAY EVENING RUSH HOUR IN HOUSTON, Texas, was anything but "rush" when a long dump-trailer parked itself on a freeway in a most unusual angle.
The 16-wheeler was traveling along I-45 when the hydraulic lift arm activated and began raising the trailer in "dump mode." The driver was unaware of the elevating experience happening right behind his cab, but he became very much aware of it when the raised trailer lodged into a highway sign housing that stretches across the freeway. The sudden stop tore the trailer from the cab and after that the rush hour was lost.
That section of the freeway was closed all night as a tow truck removed the trailer and a crane was brought in to remove the damaged sign structure. Investigators are still trying to determine what cause the lift to activate. Nobody was injured, but there are some hurt feelings out there.
KHOU-TV has a good video report complete with coverage of the trailer removal:
He Drove For Several Miles With the Dead Body Next to Him
Fadel Steadman, 32, was struck by a car early Tuesday morning as he was walking along a freeway in Houston, Texas. His car had broken down and he left it on the shoulder and started walking when James Onak, 49, came breezing along in his car and struck Steadman. The Associated Press continues:
The collision severed one of the victim's legs and sent the rest of his body through the windshield. It landed under the dashboard, on the passenger's side floorboard, authorities said.
Onak drove for about three miles before a Harris County Precinct 8 deputy constable noticed heavy damage to the front of his vehicle and pulled him over at about 12:40 a.m., said Capt. Jason Finnen, with the constable's office.
"The driver was somewhat nervous. It wasn't apparent to the (deputy) at first that there was a body in the car," Finnen said.
The damaged windshield lay inside the car, preventing the deputy from immediately seeing the body, he said.
"It wasn't until the driver stepped out that the deputy could see what had happened," Finnen said. "Because of the impact, the body was positioned up under the dashboard on the passenger's side floorboard."
Onak admitted to the officer that he had hit something on the highway, but didn't know what it was. He was apparently too drunk to even notice the dead body crammed into the car just inches away, let alone the missing windshield.
Another patrol car was sent to look for the missing leg and it was located along with Onak's license plate that had come off from the collision. A mandatory blood draw was taken and Onak was arrested. He is being charged with one misdemeanor count of DWI, a felony count of failure to stop and render aid, and felony accident involving injury.
THE OWNER OF A LICENSED DAY CARE facility in Houston, Texas, that was the scene of a fatal fire on Thursday will be charged with a felony, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Jessica Rene Tata, 22, is charged with reckless injury to a child involving serious bodily injury. The charge could be upgraded and more charges could be filed, D. A. officials said.
Jessica Tata is evaluated by a
Houston paramedic on the scene
of Thursday’s fire. (Houston Chronicle)
“We have requested that she be held at no bond,” said Donna Hawkins, spokeswoman for the Harris County district attorney’s office.
A law enforcement source said Tata had left the children and had gone to a store when the blaze began. When she returned with a bag of groceries and opened the door, smoke poured out of the house and she began screaming for help, a witness said.
Tata was caring for seven toddlers ages 16 months to 3 years on Thursday when the fire occurred. Four of the infants died in the blaze and two more are in serious condition at a Shriner’s burn hospital.
Read the Firegeezer reports on the fire HERE and HERE.
It is not clear whether or not she has been taken into custody yet. As of this morning she still had not been arrested.
KTRK-TV Ch. 13 has the first video report on this latest development:
Update, 3:50 pm Eastern: One confirmed fatality so far. Scroll down.
Update Two, 7 pm Eastern: Three confirmed deaths. Scroll down.
A FIRE BROKE OUT IN A HOUSTON, TEXAS, DAY CARE FACILITY around 1:30 pm Central today (Thursday). The home had an estimated nine children and infants in it and there are reported multiple casualties. Several CPR patients have been observed.
KTRK-TV Ch. 13 has filed this early video report:
KPRC-TV is reporting that a Houston fire official said at least two victims were taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital with second-degree burns. Their ages and conditions were not released. Two others were treated for smoke inhalation.
”We have 10 EMS units on the scene as well as several fire crews,” said Bill Barry with the Houston Fire Department.
Update, 3:50 pm Eastern: KRIV-TV is now reporting:
One person has been confirmed dead from a child care center fire in west Houston.Seven children were transported to a nearby area hospital from that fire in the 2800 block of Crest Park Drive at Waypark Drive Thursday afternoon, according to an official from the Houston Fire Department. Two of those victims have suffered burn injuries and were taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital.
It is currently unknown if the deceased victim is an adult or child.
HFD Executive Assistant Fire Chief Rick Flanagan told Eyewitness News that seven children, ages 18 months to three years, were transported to the hospital. Three of those children have died, fire investigators say.
Neighbors told us that at least two witnesses and the owner of the daycare were trying to get the children out of the house. The woman who runs Jackie’s Child Care managed to pull at least two of the kids out. They had to wait for firefighters to arrive to rescue the other five children.
With the congestion created by the firetrucks on the narrow streets, some of the ten ambulances that responded couldn’t make it all the way to the address and the firefighters had to dash down the street to the ambulances carrying the victims. KRIV-TV has provided this updated video report:
AN UNFORTUNATE HOMEOWNER IN HOUSTON, TEXAS, went through the experience of having three fires in a 12-hour span Sunday.
The first flames broke out around 2:30am on Cinnamon Oak near Queensbury. Firefighters say the fire started in a detached garage, destroying that structure and a greenhouse.”We were able to cut the fire off at that corner,” said Deputy Chief Terry Stone. “While the house suffered some fire damage, most of it’s OK.”
Most of it maybe, but not all. The HFD was called back later for what may have been a rekindle and they put the second fire out quickly.
The news wasn’t quite so good later when they responded Sunday afternoon for the third time and found the entire top floor of the house on fire. Investigators haven’t yet determined what caused the original fire.
After the first fire, most of the house was still there. (KTRK-TV)