The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

August 21, 2013

Explosion fatality was New Castle man

Investigations under way; close call for neighbor

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer

PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP — The New Castle man who was killed Monday evening when a fuel storage tank exploded on Industrial Park Road in Pymatuning Township died from head and pelvis injuries he suffered when he was thrown from a walkway near the tank to the ground below, authorities said.

Mercer County Deputy Coroner John Libonati pronounced Brian Krauss, 37, dead at 6 p.m. Monday.

The death was ruled an accident, Libonati said.

Krauss, a welder, was doing work for Brownies Oil Co., an operating division of Reed Oil Co., New Castle, Reed Oil Chief Financial Officer Mike Tappe said Monday.

“Reed Oil is conducting its own investigation and is also cooperating with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to determine the cause of this tragic accident,” Tappe said in a prepared statement.

“The Reed Oil family expresses its deepest condolences to his (Krauss’) friends and family,” Tappe said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection was also at the site Tuesday, where the remains of about 7,500 gallons of diesel fuel were being contained by dikes.

There was a strong fuel smell throughout the area. DEP spokesman Gary Clark said it didn’t appear as if any fuel had leaked into any waterways.

The area is less than a mile west of the Shenango River’s crossing at Kidd’s Mill.

Transfer Fire Chief Phil Steele said the 10,000-gallon tank was drained of gasoline Thursday and that 7,500 gallons of diesel fuel were pumped into it on Monday prior to the explosion.

Krauss was one of several people who’d been working on the tanks in recent days, neighbor Marye Kress said.

Kress lives at 746 Crestview Drive, across the street from the tanks.

“I had just come into the house,” she said. “The next thing I heard was ‘boom.’ ”

She saw black smoke and a ball of fire at the tanks and called 911. When she went onto her back deck she saw the shell of the tank smoking in her yard, not far from where she parks her cars.

“I said, ‘It exploded and it is now in my yard,’ ” to the 911 dispatcher, Kress said.

“That’s a little close,” she said. “If that tree wouldn’t have been there I probably wouldn’t have any cars. It was scary.”

She was also saddened by the tragedy.

“I knew when I saw the flames over there that they couldn’t have made it,” she said.

Had the explosion happened five minutes earlier or had Kress been running five minutes later, “I’d have been right here,” she said, standing next to the tank.

It uprooted a tree and scarred the ground in her yard. A 2-foot-long piece of pipe also landed in her front yard with a thud and was partly buried in the ground.

“I hope to never hear that again,” she said of the explosion.

She and her husband, who is a truck driver and wasn’t home at the time, have three dogs and a couple cats who were also shaken up from the shock of the blast and the increase in traffic it brought to the area.

Curiosity-seekers drove by in a steady stream on Crestview Drive and Industrial Park Road since the explosion, she said.

“There were 24 cars lined up here this morning, looking,” Kress said Tuesday afternoon.

“This isn’t a tourist attraction here, people,” Kress said.