World News

Houston crane collapse kills 4

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Four people were killed and six were injured when a massive crane collapsed at LyondellBasell’s Houston refinery on Friday afternoon, a refinery executive said.

“It’s a very sad day for us at the refinery,” said Jim Roecker, vice president of refining operations, during a news conference outside the refinery’s front gate.

All workers have now been accounted for, he said.

Witnesses near the refinery said several helicopter ambulances were seen taking off from the plant in the first hour after the crane collapsed at about 1:30 p.m. local time (7:30 p.m. British time).

The fatalities in Houston follow two recent deadly collapses in New York. In May, two people were killed on Manhattan’s Upper East Side after a large crane fell and damaged an apartment building. In March, seven were killed after a crane crushed a residential building.

The crane collapse in Houston was the deadliest U.S. crude oil refinery accident since a massive 2005 explosion at BP’s giant refinery in Texas City, Texas, killed 15 workers and injured 180 other people. Texas City is located 50 miles south of Houston.

Television footage of the collapsed crane at the Houston refinery showed it appeared to break off at the base, crushing trucks and cracking asphalt.

Roecker declined to disclose the names of those killed and the companies for which they worked, pending notification of the next of kin.

He said the crane was owned by Deep South Crane & Rigging, which is based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Those killed and injured worked for outside contractors preparing an overhaul of crude distillation and coking units at LyondellBasell’s 270,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery located along the Houston Ship Channel.

The Houston refinery had been scheduled to begin a seven-week overhaul of a crude distillation unit and a coking unit at the refinery in early July. Other ancillary units at the plant were scheduled to be shut during the overhaul.

The refinery has two crude distillation units and two coking units.

A crude distillation unit begins the refining process by turning crude oil into feedstock for further processing into fuels by specialized units at a refinery.

A coking unit strains the last motor fuel feedstocks from gunky residual crude oil and turns the remainder into petroleum coke.

LyondellBasell is a Netherlands-based chemical and refining company with annual revenues of $45 billion (27.5 billion pounds) and 16,000 employees worldwide.

Additional reporting by Anna Driver and Eileen O’Grady; Editing by David Gregorio