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Textron Aviation assists employees impacted by plant explosion in E. Wichita

Published: Dec. 27, 2019 at 8:23 AM CST
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Update Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019

With positive news that every employee injured in last Friday's plant explosion at a Textron Aviation plant in east Wichita is expected to recover, the company reaches out with information to help them, as well as other employees impacted by what happened.

A Textron Aviation spokesperson says return-to-work information is available for employees impacted by the plant's closure via a helpline: 316-517-5252 and a special

"Impacted employees are encouraged to check these resources for important return-to-work information prior to Thursday, Jan. 2," the company says.

The Textron Aviation spokesperson says "the company is implementing a phased-in return to work plan to align with employee safety, building access and manufacturing priorities."

"In some cases, employees may be temporarily reassigned to other areas of the business where assistance is required," the spokesperson says.

As the company prioritizes support for injured employees and others impacted by the Dec. 27 plant explosion, the spokesperson says Textron Aviation is also focusing on "determining the structural integrity of the building, ensuring safety and security of employees and response-team personnel and coordination and cooperation with all investigating as to the cause (of the explosion)."

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Update Monday, Dec. 30,

One person injured in Friday's plant explosion at Textron Aviation in east Wichita remains in the hospital, but could be cleared to go home within the next day or two, a spokesperson with Wesley Medical Center says.

The spokesperson says that patients condition has improved from "serious" to "fair."

A spokesperson for Ascension Via Christi says everyone injured in the explosion that received treatment at St. Francis hospital, has been released.

Fifteen people were injured last Friday after a three-inch, liquid nitrogen line was ruptured.

Monday, a Textron spokesperson issued the following statement, emphasizing support for impacted employees and gratitude to first responders.

Textron Aviation continues to assess the impact of the explosion that occurred at its Plant 3 building on Friday, Dec. 27. The priorities at this time include continued care and support of our employees who were injured and assistance to those who were otherwise impacted, determining the structural integrity of the building, ensuring the safety and security of our employees and response team personnel, and coordination and cooperation with all investigations as to cause. The company’s emergency response team meets multiple times daily to address these priorities and has appointed vendors to assist with the cleanup efforts. While the building damage assessment continues, the location of the company’s Cessna SkyCourier development program in Plant 3 appears to have not been impacted. Textron Aviation is grateful for the rapid response and expertise of the emergency personnel and first responders who assisted at the scene.

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Two people remain in the hospital after an explosion at Textron Aviation Friday.

Ascension Via Christi St. Francis told Eyewitness News Saturday that one person remains in the hospital in serious condition. Wesley Medical Center says they have one patient that is also in serious condition. The rest of the people injured in the explosion have been treated and released.

Update Friday afternoon and evening, Dec. 27

Sedgwick County confirms 15 injuries in the Friday morning explosion at a Textron Aviation plant in east Wichita.

The county says a three-inch, liquid nitrogen line was ruptured. The rupture only impacted one building. The plant where the explosion happened houses composite manufacturing and experimental aircraft fabrication.

The explosion was contained to one plant. Textron Aviation officials say the nitrogen is used to in the processing of some of the company's products, but did not say what cause the line to rupture.

Company officials say the plant will remain closed until further notice, but operations at the remaining facilities at the east Wichita property will resume.

Sedgwick County says crews from Wichita and Sedgwick County responded Friday morning, including a Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) team, which secured the area and began checking on patients.

Of the 15 injuries, Sedgwick County says, one was "potentially serious," and "there were no fatalities."

Ascension Via Christi St. Francis treated most of those who were injured. There, Eyewitness News spoke with one man who suffered a broken shoulder and several cuts in the explosion. While shaken up, he says he's just glad he made it out alive.

Relief set in for many when officials relayed news that no one died and everyone injured is expected to survive. But before much information was relayed Friday morning, family and friends of those working at the plant rushed to the hospital after getting news of what happened.

Among them was Kylan Riddle whose friend was injured in the explosion and taken to Via Christi St. Francis.

"He said it took quite a bit of work to get out of there. He had to get the roof out of the way to get out of the building," Riddle says.

Friday afternoon, Eyewitness News spoke with people in or near the Beechcraft building when the explosion happened.

Robert Baker was among those inside the building who wasn't seriously injured in the blast. He says he initially thought he felt an earthquake and looked around, thinking there could possibly be construction happening on the roof.

"By the time I got oriented, there was a pressure wave. the walls were flexing," Baker says. "There was dirt permeating through the cracks on the walls. There wasn't any debris flying around that I could see, but by that point, you had to know it wasn't any construction. It wasn't somebody banging on the walls. It was an explosion. There was no other way to describe it."

Baker says most of the buildings lights went out except for a small area where he was. He was able to see what was going on and says he doesn't think he's "ever been more scared."

"I'm not easily shaken or rattled by any means, but it was pretty startling when you hear that level of intensity," Baker says. "I saw darkness. I saw dirt in the air. I saw everything moving around because there was a pretty big explosion and the walls were flexing. The wall I was standing next to moved four feet."

From across the street, Belit Neeley was home with her 5-year-old daughter Friday morning when she heard "this huge explosion and felt an extreme boom, almost like an earthquake, but more intense than that."

Looking outside, she says falling debris from the explosion made it appear as though it was snowing.

From his home nearby, Jason Selmon says he thought the initial "boom" was from his children playing upstairs. But about 15 minutes later, he started hearing sirens and emergency vehicles and saw smoke and water coming out of the building.

Neighbor Cathy Martin says she felt the blast before she heard anything. She says she and her husband herd what sounded like something hitting their house and ran outside. They didn't see anything and realized it had to have been something that either crashed or exploded nearby.

"When we walked outside, the air smelled funny. We heard emergency vehicles and they were all headed towards Beech and we didn't know if an airplane crashed or it it was an explosion."

From the nearby CARSTAR Collision Specialist auto body shop, Manager AJ Pickering says the blast felt and sounded like a semi truck drove through the front of the building.

"We all just kind of stood there and stared at each other with panicked faces on," Pickering says. "When we went up front and looked, nothing was blown up or exploded. No cars inside our building had flown through, no semi truck in the front."

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More than a dozen people are injured after an explosion Friday morning at Textron Aviation (Old Beechcraft facility) in east Wichita.

Emergency crews were called just after 8 a.m. for a report of a possible explosion at the Textron Aviation East Facility in the 300 block of north Webb Road.

The Wichita Fire Department says a nitrogen gas line ruptured in plant three. The explosion was contained to that area. They say there are no health hazards. People nearby may see a plume of smoke coming from the ruptured vessel.

Crews searched the structure and checking the distribution system for a secondary rupture.

Textron Aviation officials say everyone is accounted for and the plant was actually closed for the holidays, so only a limited number of people were there.

The EMS coordinator said 11 people were taken to the hospital with injuries, two others arrived in private cars.

Welsey Medical Center told Eyewitness News that three patients were admitted in stable condition and two patients were discharged. Ascension Via Christi Saint Francis reports eight patients were admitted to its hospital. Four were treated and expected to be released, three are in serious condition, and one is in critical condition.

Investigators are working to determine what caused the explosion. Eyewitness News will continue to bring updates on-air and on the KWCH 12 app.

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