NTSB releases barge blast report

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Seven explosions echoed through downtown Mobile on the evening of April 24, 2013.

A report from the National Transportation Safety Board on August 14 says it began when workers were stripping 2 barges of residual gasoline. The process released flammable vapors.
The NTSB says the explosions occurred when those flammable vapors entered the air intakes of a third vessel. Those intakes were connected to a diesel engine. Investigators admit what sparked the initial explosion is still unclear.

Looking back at that night, a Fox 10 News viewer alerted us that something had suddenly gone wrong on the Mobile Waterfront.  The “ReportIt” e-mail read, “Two chemical barges near convention center on fire”. We immediately turned one of our cameras in the direction of the port, and that’s when we saw the first explosion.

As we started to go on the air at 8:59, the second blast lit up the sky.

The third explosion happened about a half hour later at 9:28 while reporter Andrew Perez was in the middle of a live interview with Mobile City Councilmember William Carroll.

About 20 minutes after that, reporter Paige Malone was preparing to continue our team coverage when the fourth explosion occurred.

We were still on the air, bringing you live video, when you saw the fifth explosion at 10:36.

The sixth explosion followed at 11:31 as chief meteorologist Jason Smith was using his maps to explain the location of the fire.

Things remained calm until 2 am, when our cameras captured the seventh and final blast.

Three people were seriously burned in the fire. Officials say the blaze and explosions caused $5.7 million in damage and caused 30 gallons of fuel to leak into the Mobile River.


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