A First Hand Account of the T2 Laboratories Explosion in Jacksonville, Florida

Wednesday, December 19th seemed like any other day in Jacksonville, Florida, the state’s largest city. But that day would soon turn into panic with the explosion of T2 Laboratories, a chemical manufacturing facility located at 3043 Faye Road in Jacksonville, Florida.

“I had taken the day off,” said Marie Berwin Riley, a Jacksonville resident. “My 5-year-old daughter was home, sick with a bad cold.”

Around 1:30 in the afternoon, Riley said she witnessed happenings completely out of the ordinary: “I heard a gun, only much more deafening. There was a bright light too that came through the windows of our house. The foundation literally shook…My daughter was upset and crying. I had no idea what to do. You almost think the world is coming to an end in that split second…”

When Riley went outside, she looked up and was dumbfounded by what she saw off in the distance. The once blue sky had practically been blocked out by white, then pitch black, smoke. Other people her neighborhood, at least the ones who were home, stepped outside on their porches and witnessed the same view.

“Part of me knew it was that chemical plant. I always hated living near it and never knowing if the plant was making it unsafe to live by…I’m not an idiot. I know of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. I never thought that it would happen to [T2 Laboratories],” she added.

Within a half an hour of the stunning blast nearby, Riley had taken her daughter and pet cat from her home off of Pulaski Road in Jacksonville to her mother’s house in Middleburg, Florida. This was smart move, considering that the chemical plant explosion could have easily put dangerous chemicals into the air that could have threatened the safety of residents.

Riley stated, “When I heard on the radio that officials were evacuating nearby businesses, I knew that I was going to get out of there.”

That night on the local TV station and on the following morning, Riley and others who had heard, seen, or felt the blast would learn that four people were killed and others were injured.

Riley’s mother, Mildred Berwin, said, “On [Channel 4], the entire building looked like a shell. They showed nearby buildings and businesses that had shattered windows and busted down doors from the explosion. I couldn’t believe it. I thanked God a million times for keeping my daughter and grand-daughter safe.”

On December 20th, a day later, fire officials finally removed the body of the plant’s co-owner from the building, along with the body of one other worker. At the time, many of the nearby businesses and a few homes are still evacuated for safety. Investigators are still digging through the remains of the building to determine what happened to cause the explosion.

T2 Laboratories’ web site has not been updated with any new or breaking information. However, the company’s web site has an emergency hot line number (904) 396-3252. Upon calling this number, the plant has little information to offer about the explosion, including the source of the horrible blast.

Sources:

Jacksonville News: News4JAX.com. “Victims of Chemical Blast Identified.” www.news4jax.com/news/14896144/detail.html

USA Today. “Major Explosion at Jacksonville chemical plant; 3 dead.” blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2007/12/major-explosion.html

Personal Interview: Marie Berwin Riley. 12/20/2007.

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