New York

1 Dead, 33 Hurt as Twin Explosions Rock NY Cosmetics Manufacturing Facility

Witnesses described an acrid smell of burning chemicals wafting down the street

What to Know

  • A local official in New Windsor said there were reports of an explosion followed by a fire and second explosion at Verla International
  • Thirty-three people were hurt, including firefighters; one worker at Verla International was later found dead inside
  • The company produces nail polish and cosmetics, among other beauty products, according to its website

UPDATE: Probe Underway Into Fatal Explosions at NY Cosmetics Factory

A pair of explosions rocked a gigantic cosmetics manufacturing plant in New York's Orange County Monday, killing one worker and injuring nearly three dozen other people as thick plumes of noxious black smoke spewed from the roof and the blasted-out sides of the building, according to authorities and footage posted to social media. 

The body of the worker who died in the blasts at Verla International plant, a 52,000 square-foot facility on Temple Hill Road in New Windsor, was found inside the plant at about 7:30 p.m., nine hours after the blast.  His identity hasn't been released.

Thirty-three other people were hurt, including seven Newburgh firefighters, some of whom were faced with a secondary explosion when they responded to the first. Two of those firefighters were taken to hospitals with burns. The other 26 victims are Verla workers. They are all expected to survive.

"Everyone who works in the back was running to the front," said worker David Moahbeen. "They said, 'Everyone get out! Fire! Fire!'"

Verla --  which produces nail polish and cosmetics, among other beauty products, according to its website -- could not be reached for comment.

By mid-morning, dozens of fire and other emergency vehicles had converged on the scene of the five-alarm blaze. Witnesses described an acrid smell of burning chemicals wafting down the street. A shelter-in-place order was issued for a half-mile radius around the building for much of the day.

"I couldn't breathe," said Andrea Latorraca. "My chest was hurting and I felt really bad chest pain and my head was banging."

Dramatic Images: Explosions Rock NY Cosmetics Plant

Environmental officials were also on scene, and authorities said at an afternoon briefing they weren't sure of the full suite of chemicals that may have been in the plant when it exploded. Officials said they believed the air was safe to breathe and that drinking water wasn't affected.

The cause of the blasts is under investigation. Records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicate the plant was hit with a dozen violations earlier this year related to exit maintenance and the use of flammable liquids, among other issues. Of those violations, nine were classified as "serious."

The federal agency also cited inadequacies relating to respirator protection for workers and the maintenance of exit routes. The company agreed to pay $41,000 in penalties.

Michael Arvanites, the president of the occupational safety group Safety Professional Association, said that the violations are indicative of serious lapses.

"Twelve violations, nine of them are serious," Arvanites said. "In one calendar year, that's a lot for a 100-person warehouse."

One Facebook user who said his office is across the street from the plant wrote in a post that people were seen "running scattering" in the street after Monday's blasts. The road was closed to traffic to assist with the emergency response.  

The cosmetic company that saw an explosion Monday morning at its New York factory had been in the hot seat with regulators just this year, partly in regards to the way flammable liquids were stored. Chris Glorioso reports.

Another video showed intense orange flames leaping from the roof of the building as firefighters battled the blaze from trucks and on foot. New York State Police also responded. A town supervisor, George Green, said the facility was fully engulfed by fire at one point. 

The flames appeared to be mostly contained after about an hour, as photos from the scene showed the stark black smoke that spewed into the air earlier had faded to a gray haze that seemed to shroud the entire skyline. 

The factory, which employs more than 100 people, is about a half mile from the town hall and police station in New Windsor, 55 miles north of New York City.

Medical personnel praised the quick action of emergency crews, saying it could have been catastrophic had they not responded with such efficiency.

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