Explosion at Coast fish plant leaves one dead, three injured

ambulanceMOSS POINT — One person was killed and three others were injured in an explosion today at a fish processing plant on the Mississippi coast.

Omega Protein spokesman Ben Landry said it happened about 9:30 a.m. while employees of a subcontractor were working on two storage tanks.

“One tank exploded and we have one fatality and three injuries, one of which we think is severe,” Landry said.

Jackson County Coroner Vicki Broadus identified the dead worker as Jerry Lee Taylor II, 25, of Mobile, Alabama. Broadus said an autopsy will be conducted.

Identities of the injured were not immediately released. Authorities said the three injured workers were taken to Singing River Hospital where their conditions were not known.

Landry said the company expected to release a more detailed statement later today.

“We’re still getting details on what happened. Our investigative team and the local fire department will be working on this. The plant will be closed for the next two days while we aid in the investigation,” he said.

Moss Point Fire Chief Tommy Posey told reporters at the scene there was no fire after the explosion.

Omega Protein operates a menhaden — or pogy — fishing fleet with a processing plant and adjacent shipyard in Moss Point.

The company produces fish oils and fish meal for human consumption and use in aquaculture, agriculture and industrial applications. The plant and its adjacent shipyard employ about 300 people. There’s work year-round, although it picks up during Menhaden fishing season, which runs from mid-April until the first of November. The company has processing plants in four states and is based in Houston.

The Moss Point plant has had some safety issues in the past.

In April, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the Moss Point plant $3,341 over violations of sanitation rules and failure to provide proper machine protection

In 2012, an Omega Protein worker was killed in an accident that federal investigators have since said was avoidable. Christopher Hebert, 24, of Moss Point, had worked at the plant for three years. He was killed when he was caught in a rotating screw conveyor.

OSHA initially cited Omega for 25 violations after the fatality. That was reduced to 22 violations and a fine of $50,000 against the non-union plant. Omega was cited for multiple issues, including failure to make sure machinery was properly locked down when it was being worked on and failure to properly secure floor and wall openings.

In May 2011, three men were killed aboard an Omega Protein fishing boat called the Sandy Point, which collided with a 660-foot container ship in the Gulfport ship channel.

 

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