South Hadley residents concerns after CO2 container explodes, lands in backyard

The blast was pinpointed to South Hadley where fire investigators said a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher exploded at the demolition site of the company, E. Ink
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 6:23 PM EDT
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SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - A big explosion heard all around western Massachusetts Tuesday has many people looking for answers.

The blast was pinpointed to South Hadley where fire investigators said a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher exploded at the demolition site of the company, E. Ink.

We spoke with one person who heard and found the CO2 extinguisher in his backyard. and the captain of the South Hadley Fire Department to find out what exactly happened.

Western Mass News obtained a video of the explosion that people in South Hadley, and others for miles around, heard on Tuesday afternoon. We have learned that it was a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher that exploded.

South Hadley resident James Drobnak told us that he discovered what was left of the extinguisher in his own backyard.

“My fiancée and I were home, just doing housework, and we heard an explosion probably around noon, give or take, and didn’t really think anything of it,” Drobnak said. “I went outside to mow the lawn and I saw this piece of, at the time, I knew it was metal. I didn’t know what it was at the time and it looked like an old gas tank.”

Western Mass News reached out to the South Hadley Fire Department for answers. Fire Captain Jason Houle told us the explosion came from the area of 27 Gaylord Street where the manufacturing company E. Ink is located.

“When we got there, we were informed by the contractor that, during demolition of the building, they were using a machine to pull debris out of the building and there was a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher, a CO2 extinguisher,” Captain Houle said. “It was in the debris, and when they picked it up with a piece of equipment, the cylinder exploded.”

Part of that debris flew through the air and landed about 1,000 yards away in Drobnak’s backyard on Lamb Street.

“Once we learned about potentially where it came from, we immediately shut down all the construction and demolition at that site,” Captain Houle said. “The contractor actually contacted OSHA, reported it to them. We’re working with the building department to address the situation and make sure nothing like this happens again.”

Captain Houle told us the extinguisher weighs 20 pounds and is about 2 feet tall. Drobnak said the explosion has raised concerns.

“The more that we got word of it or people saying stuff, more we got upset and riled up,” he said, “because if we’re out there… I have two dogs. I have an 11-month-old. I have an almost 17 year old, and we’re outside all the time, so if we were outside at the wrong time, that would have killed someone for sure.”

The area where the explosion took place remains closed down while the South Hadley Fire Department and the building inspector conduct a further investigation.