1 dead, 4 injured in Ind. steel mill explosion

January 8, 2010 4:32:18 AM PST
An explosion at a northwest Indiana steel mill left one dead and four injured Thursday night.It happened in the melt shop of the Beta Steel Corporation in Portage, Indiana.

A steam explosion inside a snow soaked steel plant was so powerful it caused metal fly. There was no fire, instead nearby workers got their burns from the steam. It was strong enough to kill one of them.

"That's the best we can guess at this point water met with molten steel. We just don't know why," said Chief Bill Lundy, Portage Fire Department.

Firefighters theorize water may have entered an arc furnace where steel is melted. It may have gotten through a leak or from snow on steel scraps stored outside.

The mill typically runs around the clock but work is now suspended.

"The mill has been turned back over to Beta Steel, going in inspecting area to check the cause," said Lundy.

It is the second deadly explosion at the mill in the last 15 years. Investigators from the Occupation Safety and Health Administration are expected at the mill on Friday morning to help identify the cause of the latest blast.