A piping failure that released a colorless, flammable gas is what caused a fire at a Crosby production facility in April, according to plant consultants.

Michael Kehs, managing director of the Energy and Industrial practice at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a global public relations consulting firm, shared some initial investigative findings from the company Wednesday. 

“KMCO, LLC is committed to providing the community with timely and accurate updates on the status of the facility and our investigation into the cause of the heart-breaking incident on April 2, 2019,” Kehs said in a statement. “While the company’s investigation is ongoing, eye-witnesses have described a sudden, acute failure in a piping component that caused a release of Isobutylene, which ignited minutes later. The failure of this component on the morning of April the 2nd caused the release of flammable gases and resulting fire.”

Kehs stated there is “no evidence to support media speculation” that a faulty or leaking Isobutylene valve caused the fire.

One person, identified as James Earl “Bubba” Mangum, was killed in the fire and two others were injured.   

KMCO CEO John Foley released a statement about Mangum.

“The entire KMCO team continues to mourn the loss of our friend and colleague, James Earl Mangum, or ‘Bubba’ as he was fondly known at the plant,” Foley said.  “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as well as his two coworkers.”

Kehs also mentioned Mangum and the two that were injured in the fire. 

“The entire KMCO family truly appreciates the outpouring of support we have received from the Crosby community,” Kehs stated. “We continue to mourn the loss of a colleague and recognize that even one injury is too many. Our company and our team continue to stand strong and close in support of our affected employees, families, and community.”

The company released a statement on how it plans to move forward in the wake of the fire. 

“After completing a careful and in-depth evaluation, the company made the difficult decision this week to restructure our workforce to better align with our ongoing business and future growth opportunities,” the statement read. “This decision was painful but necessary to achieve our long-term strategic goals. The company is grateful for the contributions made by each of the affected employees, and we wish them the best in their future endeavors.”

The restructure eliminates 35 positions versus a pre-April 2 incident workforce of 198. Those affected were notified Wednesday. KMCO officials said they are providing all affected employees with professional outplacement support.

The fire broke out just over two weeks after a March 17 blaze at the ITC petrochemical storage facility in Deer Park. According to its web site, KMCO offers coolant and brake fluid products and chemicals for the oilfield industry.

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