1 killed, 3 injured after explosion at West Virginia chemical plant


BELLE, W.Va. (NewsNation Now) — One person was killed and three others are injured after an explosion at the Optima plant Tuesday in Belle, West Virginia.

The conditions of the three people injured are unknown at this time. The man who died was identified by his family Wednesday.

The family of John Gillenwater issued the following statement:

John was beloved by many in his community and his church.  Tina and her children are surrounded by family and friends in this great time of need.  What happened was a tragedy.  

John was the sole breadwinner for his family, and many are asking how they can help.  First, the family covets your prayers.  John Gillenwater was a true man of faith and the family believes in the power of prayer. 

Second, a benefit account for the family has been established with City National Bank. We encourage those who would like to show support for Tina and the family during this time to donate by contacting any local branch referencing the benefit account for John Gillenwater.

At this time, the family is dealing with the shock of this tragedy and we ask that you respect their privacy. We will notify the media of any further comments that may come in the future. 

Family of John Gillenwater

The explosion happended Tuesday around 10 p.m. EST at the Chemours plant in the Kanawha County community of Belle, the county commission said in a statement. Details about the incident, including whether chemicals were involved, and whether anyone was injured weren’t immediately released.

A shelter-in-place order was issued for a two-mile radius around the plant, NewsNation affiliate WOWK reported.

A photo shared with NewsNation showed visible large flames. People who lived in the area reported their houses shook. 

By Wednesday morning, the order was lifted.

“Emergency responders have evaluated the scene and have determined that an all clear can be issued for the incident,” the county commission said.

Chemours formed as a spinoff from DuPont in 2015. The 723-acre site is located along the Kanawha River about 10 miles southeast of Charleston. The town of Belle has about 1,100 residents.

Correction: The article has been updated to reflect this explosion happened in West Virginia.

NewsNation affiliate WOWK and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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