Final report issued on fatal Belvidere explosion; Feds say plant ignored safety warning before 2009 explosion

Federal officials say a northern Illinois manufacturing plant ignored safety auditor warnings before a 2009 fatal explosion.
November 14, 2013 4:21:26 PM PST
Federal officials say a northern Illinois manufacturing plant ignored safety auditor warnings before a 2009 fatal explosion.

The explosion happened December 7th, 2009 at the NDK Crystal manufacturing company in Belvidere. One steel fragment flew 650 feet to a gas station, killing an Indiana truck driver who was walking back to his truck. Another piece of debris slammed an automotive supply company. Seventy people were working, one was injured.

On Thursday, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board held a meeting to release its findings of what happened. Even though state inspections were not conducted properly, the board places blame with the company.

"You cannot blame the city or the state because they didn't inspect properly. They knew exactly what the purchase was, they should have known the dangers were and it was their responsibility that this doesn't happen," said Rafael Moure-Eraso, U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board.

NDK manufactured crystals inside pressurized vessels. A safety board animation shows that there were eight vessels inside the plant, No. 2 is the one that exploded. The animation shows the steel building blasting away, with one fragment zipping through the air toward the gas station on the Illinois Tollway. A piece of the vessel tears through a wall and skips across the parking lot to the auto supply company.

So what happened? According to the Safety Board, the investigation concluded that Vessel #2 failed most likely because of stress corrosion inside the vessel. It cracked and ruptured. The agency also discovered that the vessel was not inspected for years.

The chemical safety board made eight recommendations for regulators and NDK. The company has not resumed operations since that accident. But if it does reopen, there is now a rigorous process in place that will ensure regular inspections.