By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — PEABODY — Fire officials have identified the man killed by an explosion at the Dow Chemical plant in North Andover on Wednesday as 51-year-old Carlos Amaral, and say the explosion was caused when a volatile chemical was accidentally exposed to air in the lab where he was working.
Amaral was alone in the laboratory at 60 Willow St. shortly before noon when the explosion occurred, burning over half his body. A statement released yesterday by state Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan’s office blamed the chemical Trimethylindium for the explosion.
Trimethylindium is a pyrophoric chemical, meaning it ignites spontaneously when exposed to air below a certain temperature. North Andover Fire Chief Andrew Melnikas said it was unclear exactly how the chemical came to be exposed to air inside the lab.
“Either there was a malfunction of the container or human error,” Melnikas said in the release.
Amaral was MedFlighted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he died. Attempts to reach his family last night were unsuccessful.
The resulting fire was contained by the site’s sprinkler system, and no one else was injured.
Due to new requirements regarding hazardous materials processing that were created in the wake of several chemical explosions in the state, Dow will likely soon have to apply for a permit from the local Fire Department for the very process that was being conducted in the lab when Amaral died, the state fire marshal said.
“I believe the chemical process safety regulations being phased in will provide better communication and coordination with the fire service and lead to improved fire safety for workers and communities,” Coan said in the release.
Those regulations don’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2014.
“The Code Compliance Unit of the Office of the State Fire Marshal is working with the North Andover Fire Department to review fire code issues,” read the release.
The fire was investigated by the North Andover fire and police departments, as well as state police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating, and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has requested information regarding the incident.