NEWNAN, Ga. - Five people were injured when an aluminum plant exploded, rattling windows across Coweta County Wednesday morning.
Authorities say the blast happened around 9:15 a.m. at the Bonnell Aluminum plant on 29 Bonnell Street. A huge hole can be seen at the plant.
Two people with life-threatening injuries were taken to Atlanta Medical Center, and three others were taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
A spokesperson for the plant said it is too early to tell what caused the explosion but reported they are working closely with fire officials to conduct a thorough investigation.
Fire officials said it is not a hazmat situation. One investigator said most of the damage to the plant area was cosmetic.
Channel 2’s Liz Artz spoke to witnesses, who said the explosion sounded like gunfire.
"I just heard a big, old blast. It sounded like something was shooting. That’s what it sounded like, like someone was shooting like 50,000 times,” said witness Erica Moss.
Paramedics at the scene told Artz that they are focused on secondary heat exposure.
Temple Avenue was closed just west of Newnan Crossing Bypass/Hwy 34/Hwy. 16 due to the investigation.
Many people tweeted and posted on Facebook that they felt the blast from nearly a mile away from the plant.
One person said the front door of their business was blown open from about two blocks away from the plant.
Ashley Phillps has been an employee at Bonnell Aluminum Plant for five years. She says the job can be hazardous, she and co-worker Anisha Britt talked to Channel 2 Action News about the dangerous combination of hot metal and water.
Phillips and Britt said while the company provides extensive safety training, it's not an easy place to work.
Channel 2 Action News has learned the plant faced three OSHA violations in 2012 after two inspections.
Industrial explosion at Bonnell Aluminum in Newnan. At least one injured, according to police. Story developing. pic.twitter.com/0alhT4eg7K— Clay Neely (@ClayNeely) June 29, 2016
The plant will remain closed until tomorrow. The casting area where the explosion occurred will remain closed until the investigation is complete.
The company released a statement to Channel 2 Action News:
This morning at approximately 9:15 there was an accident in the casting area at the Bonnell Aluminum Plant in Newnan, Georgia. The plant immediately notified 911 and implemented our emergency response plan which calls for an evacuation of the area. During that process, we discovered that five employees were injured in the incident. One was airlifted to Atlanta Medical Center in Atlanta; two others were transported to the local hospital and two were treated on site. We are now in the process of notifying family members and offering whatever support they need during this challenging time. We will not release the names of the individuals until given permission by the families.
At this time, it’s too early to speculate on what caused the accident but we are working closely with local fire officials and others to conduct a thorough investigation. The safety of our employees is our number one priority so we have temporarily shut down our operations until we can assess the situation.
We hope to have an update on the status of our response by mid-afternoon.
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