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'Pretty catastrophic': Investigation underway after explosion leaves 1 dead, 13 hurt at Oakwood factory

The exact cause of the blast is unknown at this time, but Oakwood Fire Capt. Brian DiRocco says it 'appears' to be connected to the foundry's molten metal furnaces.

OAKWOOD VILLAGE, Ohio — Police and fire officials held a press conference Tuesday less than 24 hours after a deadly explosion at an Oakwood Village factory.

Oakwood Fire Capt. Brian DiRocco confirmed one person was killed in the blast at the I. Schumann & Co. foundry on Alexander Road. In addition, 13 others were taken to local hospitals, with "several" suffering burn injuries.

The exact cause of the explosion, which occurred around 2:20 p.m., is not known at this time. However, DiRocco says it "appears" the incident originated from the plant's "very large furnaces" and molten metal ladles.

"It's the largest fire that I've ever had to handle ... and probably the largest one we've had in Oakwood in a very long time," DiRocco told reporters. Aid was requested for 14 outside departments from across Greater Cleveland and Akron, totally roughly 60 additional firefighters.

The deceased victim has been identified as 46-year-old North Ridgeville native Steve Mullins, and sources tell 3News' Lydia Esparra he was a maintenance worker at the plant. Of the injured, DiRocco says all burn victims were taken to MetroHealth Medical Center, and the hospital told WKYC yesterday they were treating seven patients with two listed as being in critical condition.

The State Fire Marshal's Office told 3News that investigators remain at the scene of the explosion on Tuesday. The office adds that after interviewing several witnesses, investigators do not believe the explosion was the result of a criminal act. The Hillcrest-Heights Regional Investigation Unit, the ATF, and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio are all assisting in the investigation.

The Ohio Department of Transportation shared traffic video footage with 3News following a public records request. From a distance, you can see the first moments of the explosion. Watch below:

DiRocco described the damage to the building as "pretty catastrophic," adding his team couldn't even go into some spots because of safety issues. The Ohio State Fire Marshall is now leading the investigation.

This is not the first time that there has been an explosion at the I Schumann & Co. plant. In April of 2006, five workers were injured when molten metal caused an explosion. None of the injuries were serious. You can see 3News video from the 2006 incident here.

When asked about the company's history, DiRocco said they were "in good standing" and had always cooperated with his department's inquiries.

"They've been in the village for a very long time," the captain stated. "Any time we've had any violation — even if it's a small one — they've complied and fixed whatever it is."

The department has also spoken with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and as of now officials do not believe there is a need for residents to evacuate.

I. Schumann & Co. released the following statement on Tuesday:

"It is with heavy hearts that we confirm the passing of Steven Mullins, one of our valued colleagues and good friend to all. Steve was with the company for nearly 30 years working in our maintenance group. He will be greatly missed, and our thoughts are with his family at this time. We would like to thank the many first responders whose quick action following our accident yesterday ensured our employees who needed medical care got it quickly.

"There is no immediately available information regarding a cause for this accident. We expect it will take time before we know more. We intend to cooperate with OSHA and other officials in their investigation as we search for answers in this tragic accident. We are working with our employees regarding their needs while the facility is idle and hope to have clarity on our operations in the near future."


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