More than a dozen people were injured Dec. 27 when a nitrogen line ruptured at the Beechcraft aircraft manufacturing facility in Wichita, Kansas, causing part of the building to collapse, authorities said.
Daniel Wegner, deputy fire chief for Sedgwick County, said the explosion happened at around 8 a.m. at the facility, which is in the eastern part of the city.
John Gallagher, the county’s EMS director, said 11 people were taken to hospitals and four were treated at the scene. No one was killed, but one person has potentially serious injuries, he said. Wegner said the explosion happened when a 3-inch liquid nitrogen line ruptured. The rupture was contained, but gas continued to vent, although it posed no risk to nearby residents, officials said.
“The plant closed or shut down for the holiday season so the numbers that would have been here, were not, so it was a skeleton crew,” Wegner said.
The cause of the blast is under investigation.
James Fromme, a chief for the Wichita Fire Department, said there were no reports that anyone was still trapped in the building.
Stephanie Harder, a spokeswoman for Beechcraft’s parent company, Textron Aviation, said the structure where the explosion happened is part of a complex of buildings and houses the business’ composite manufacturing and experimental aircraft.
“Difficult day. Difficult news,” she said.
The state Fire Marshal’s Office, OSHA and the local lodge of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers didn’t immediately respond to phone messages.
The explosion comes at a difficult time for the aircraft industry in Wichita, which is a major sector of the Kansas economy.
Boeing announced that it would suspend production of its troubled 737 Max jetliner in January, forcing the state to consider helping to pay workers at Spirit AeroSystems, which produces the jet’s fuselages. And earlier this month, Textron Aviation announced that it would lay off an unspecified number of workers, most of them in Wichita.
The plant is in the legislative district of Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican.
“I am praying for those who are injured and my staff and I will be in close contact with community and state leaders as investigators work to learn more,” Wagle said in an email statement.