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Mohawk Asphalt fined over fatal explosion

Mohawk Asphalt fined over fatal explosion

Two workmen were badly burned, later died
Mohawk Asphalt fined over fatal explosion
A damaged truck can be seen at the site of a fatal explosion in October.
Photographer: Eric Jenks/ For The Daily Gazette

The asphalt-mixing company where an explosion last October killed two workers has settled two citations for safety violations and paid a fine of $17,745, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

After an investigation, Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions of 6 Freemans Bridge Road was cited for what OSHA described as two "serious" violations: not taking precautions against having sources of ignition where flammable vapors are present; and not having employees wear proper personally protective uniforms while handling hot asphalt.

The company has corrected both the violations as of May 18 and settled the case, U.S. Department of Labor spokesman James Lally said Friday. The original proposed fine was $25,350, but the sides reached a $17,745 settlement, he said. OSHA closed the case investigation this past Wednesday.

The Oct. 17 explosion at Mohawk's facility occurred when employees used a propane blowtorch to heat a plugged line as a mix of kerosene and asphalt was being loaded into a tanker truck, according to one citation. Kerosene vapors ignited, causing a flash fire that severely burned two workers who later died.

Joe Nichols, 56, of Amsterdam, died on Oct. 19, two days after having been taken to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, following the explosion. Nichols, a truck driver, was burned over 95 percent of his body, according to OSHA. He had worked for Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions for 24 years.

On Nov. 3, a second worker who had been taken to Westchester Medical Center's burn unit died. Al Crowter, 42, had worked for Gorman for two construction seasons. OSHA records said he was burned over about 65 percent of his body.

The third worker taken to a hospital after the explosion, identified as company technical services manager Brian Jones, suffered minor burns and was taken to a local hospital, from which he was later released.

OSHA's Albany office conducted an on-site investigation immediately after the incident, the smoke from which could be seen miles away.

Mohawk Asphalt is a subsidiary of The Gorman Group, a construction company based in Albany. A request for comment was referred to the company's attorney, Frank O'Connor III, who wasn't available on Friday.

Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions has not been cited in the past by OSHA.

The Glenville site, just east of where a new hotel has been constructed, has been making highway construction materials since 1975, according to the company website.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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