GREENVILLE (KDKA) – An explosion in Mercer County killed one man and sent a fuel tank flying, which narrowly missed a home Monday afternoon.
The Mercer County Coroner’s Office has now identified the victim as 37-year-old Brian Krauss of New Castle. He was pronounced dead at the scene around 6 p.m.
According to the coroner’s office, Krauss died of head and pelvis injuries after being thrown from an elevated walkway to the ground. His death has been ruled accidental.
Cleanup crews returned Tuesday to the Brownies Oil Company site in Greenville. The investigation is now being coordinated between the Pymatuning Township Police Department, Mercer County Emergency Management and the county coroner.
“We don’t know what caused it, but it was an accident, and it blew up,” Pymatuning Township Police Chief Eric Baugher said.
The victim was self-employed and had been contracted by Reed Oil to weld scaffolding onto a ladder on one of the fuel storage tanks. Police said Krauss was on top of one of the storage tanks, which holds 10,000 gallons of off-road diesel fuel, when the explosion happened.
“I’m just glad that it’s not as bad as it could have been, but it was bad enough,” Chief Baugher said.
Despite the tragedy, there’s a small sense of relief from officials because no one else was hurt. The tank flew about 100 meters, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. It landed within feet of a home.
“I called 911 and went flying out the door because she was saying what was going on and stopped dead when I saw the tank sitting there, because that’s like 30 feet from my kitchen,” Mary Kress said.
The DEP was called in shortly after the explosion. Surprisingly, the impact of all the diesel fuel was minimal.
The DEP said a dike and catch basin surrounding the tanks were able to capture roughly 5,000 gallons of fuel, which kept it from entering waterways.
“Everything was put in place so it would be a controlled situation, so if something happens, the dike did its job. It held back the diesel fuel it appears,” Gary Clark with the DEP said.
Reed Oil’s CEO Mike Tappe has release the following statement on the accident:
“Last night, an employee working for one of our service providers was fatally injured while working at Reed Oil’s Brownie location. The Reed Oil family expresses our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and friends. Reed Oil is currently conducting its own investigation and is also cooperating with OSHA to determine the cause of this tragic accident.”