January 7, 2021 4:40 pm

An explosion and fire at a West Virginia chemical plant that shook surrounding homes killed a plant worker and injured three other people.

Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper said one person died Wednesday. In a statement, the victim’s family identified him as plant worker John Gillenwater of Hurricane.

“The family is devastated over the loss of their husband, father and friend John Gillenwater,” the statement said. “John was beloved by many in his community and his church.

“At this time, the family is dealing with the shock of this tragedy and we ask that you respect their privacy.”

Among the injured, another plant worker was hurt and one person was hit by debris. Officials believe the explosion involved chlorinated dry bleach and methanol, Carper said.

People who lived in the area reported their houses shook. Emergency officials announced a shelter-in-place order for 2 miles (3 kilometers) around the plant and a nearby road was closed before firefighters were able to extinguish the flames and allow people to move around. The order was lifted early Wednesday.

Belle Mayor David Fletcher, who also is a volunteer firefighter, said the blaze was extinguished before midnight. “Right now we feel like everything is in pretty good shape,” he told WCHS-TV.

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