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Explosion update: Investigators focusing in on NHBB acid room

  • Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.

    Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.

  • Governor Maggie Hassan and fire officials gave a press conference regarding the NHBB explosion on Feb. 11, 2014.

    Governor Maggie Hassan and fire officials gave a press conference regarding the NHBB explosion on Feb. 11, 2014.

  • Governor Maggie Hassan and fire officials gave a press conference regarding the NHBB explosion on Feb. 11, 2014.

    Governor Maggie Hassan and fire officials gave a press conference regarding the NHBB explosion on Feb. 11, 2014.

  • Governor Maggie Hassan and fire officials gave a press conference regarding the NHBB explosion on Feb. 11, 2014.

    Governor Maggie Hassan and fire officials gave a press conference regarding the NHBB explosion on Feb. 11, 2014.

  • Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.

    Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.

  • Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.

    Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.

  • Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.

    Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.

  • Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.
  • Governor Maggie Hassan and fire officials gave a press conference regarding the NHBB explosion on Feb. 11, 2014.
  • Governor Maggie Hassan and fire officials gave a press conference regarding the NHBB explosion on Feb. 11, 2014.
  • Governor Maggie Hassan and fire officials gave a press conference regarding the NHBB explosion on Feb. 11, 2014.
  • Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.
  • Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.
  • Emergency crews responded to a four alarm explosion at NHBB, Monday, where 15 or more people were injured, including two people who had to be airlifted to Mass General and Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities.

UPDATE: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday:

PETERBOROUGH — The New Hampshire Ball Bearings plant remained closed Wednesday, as the company’s maintenance workers cleared debris from the first floor, which was rocked by an explosion Monday afternoon that sent 15 people to hospitals.

Two NHBB employees remain hospitalized Wednesday, after being flown by helicopter from Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough to hospitals in Masschusetts. The names of those workers or information about the extent of their injuries has not been released.

The company was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, as fire, hazmat and OSHA officials continued their investigation. The building was turned over to the company late Tuesday, and clean up was in progress on Wednesday.

“The building has been checked throughly,” NHBB spokesperson Hans Baker said on Wednesday. “A lot of what we’re doing is getting debris out of the area affected. We hope to get up and running in all unaffected areas on Thursday.”

Baker said the company will be posting updates about when employees should report for work on its website www.nhbb.com.

In a letter to employees posted on the website, NHBB President Gary Yomantas said that employees who are unable to work due to plant shutdown or limited operations will be paid their normal base wages.

“As we ramp up operations, employees will be called back as quickly as possible — this may mean working in their own areas or to support other departments.”

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 11:

PETERBOROUGH — Two New Hampshire Ball Bearings employees remain hospitalized in the aftermath of an explosion on the first floor of the manufacturing company Monday afternoon.

Fourteen people were transported to the hospital yesterday after the explosion, including 10 Ball Bearings employees and four private contractors. All but two have been treated and released.

According to a statement the company issued at 11:38 a.m. this morning, Tuesday, “Our understanding is that 14 people were injured and taken to the local hospital. As of 7:45 p.m. last night, 12 patients were treated and released. Two employees were treated and transferred to other hospitals which are better equipped to care for their specific needs.”

New Hampshire Ball Bearings remains closed today following yesterday’s incident, while fire, hazmat and OSHA officials conclude their investigation. The building will be turned over to Ball Bearings officials to continue remediation and clean up later this afternoon, according to Assistant Director and Deputy State Fire Marshal Max Schultz, who spoke at a press conference outside the facility this morning.

Initial investigation appears to point to an acid room, where N.H. Ball Bearings workers surface treat ball bearings, as the initial point of the explosion, and the investigation is focused in on that area, said Schultz. Determining the actual cause of the explosion, however, is a process that could take as long as several weeks, he said. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is considering this an industrial incident, and does not suspect foul play, he added.

“Responding departments have spent the night in frigid temperatures investigating the explosion but, as of this writing, the specific cause has not yet been determined,” the company’s press release from this morning reads. “Power and heat have been restored in all but the affected areas.”

Though most employees reported hearing one loud explosion, some reported hearing two, said Schultz, a smaller one preceding the large one. The state Fire Marshal’s office will be investigating whether there were two explosions or one.

Rich Bardellini, vice president of manufacturing at N.H. Ball Bearings, said a structural engineer will be examining the building before any employees are allowed to return, although at this point the building appears to be sound. The company hopes to resume operations as soon as possible, although the area immediately affected by the explosion will remain closed for now.

The company has said the facility will remain closed at least through first shift. “We will not have our employees return to work until both New Hampshire state officials and NHBB’s management team are convinced beyond any doubt that everyone will be safe.”

Bardellini declined to comment on whether employees will be paid for the missing work days. Gov. Maggie Hassan visited the N.H. Ball Bearing site on Tuesday afternoon. She commented that whether employees receive compensation depends upon the company and situation. N.H. Ball Bearings is still determining the length of time it will be closed, she said. Should it be determined workers will not be compensated, they will have the Department of Employment Security available to them, she said.

Hassan said state officials from the Department of Environmental Services and regional hazmat teams were on the scene on Tuesday to investigate any possible environmental concerns as a result of the explosion. Testing of the catch basins, culverts, and the water runoff from the sprinkler system which went off in reaction to the explosion did not show any contamination, she said.

Hassan commended the enormous response from emergency officials at the time of the accident.

The company also expressed gratitude in its statement today for the many emergency response teams that have been working at the scene since Monday afternoon: “All of us at NHBB are grateful beyond words for the response we received from our New Hampshire emergency teams: ambulance/rescue crews, fire crews, local and state police, hazmat teams, OSHA officials, fire investigators, and many others. The response was overwhelming, immediate and complete.”

Danielle Drouin of Rindge, an employee of the company, said this morning, Tuesday, that last night’s third shift was cancelled and today’s first shift was also cancelled. She said when she called the company earlier this morning no one answered and there was no out-going message with information. All the information she’s had has come from Facebook updates posted by other employees.

Drouin works second shift, 3:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., and as of late Tuesday morning had not yet heard if she will be expected to work today.

“I can’t imagine going in to do anything besides clean up,” Drouin said.

The explosion happened at 3:30 p.m. Monday, and Drouin said she didn’t leave the premises until 6:30 p.m. She said she was cold, and spent two hours warming up in a car with a couple of other coworkers. Her car was parked in the upper level of the parking area behind the building. She said everyone who parked in the lower parking level, the area closest to Route 202, had to have pictures taken of their car and license plates before they left and were required to give written statements, she said.

She also said that not everyone was able to grab their cell phone and keys before leaving the building Tuesday afternoon, and those people have not been allowed back into the building since the explosion.

“The floor went up and down like an elevator,” Drouin said of explosion. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Drouin was surprised there was no out-going message from the company, but doesn’t worry about finding out about work today. “I’m going to hear on Facebook faster,” Drouin said.

N.H. Ball Bearings does regular yearly evacuation drills, said Fire Chief Joe Lenox, and employees did a good job following procedure immediately following the explosion, which helped to reduce injuries. Lenox also praised the response teams, noting that Peterborough had two paramedic ambulances on the scene within three minutes.

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