By JOHN K. MANNA jmanna@ncnewsonline.com

Four people were injured Wednesday morning when an explosion rocked a Neshannock Township industrial facility. The injured were employees of International Specialty Alloys, which is located in Northgate Industrial Park off Mitchell Road. They were taken to Jameson Hospital, according to the Neshannock Township fire department Jeffrey Grimes of 201 Clen-Moore Blvd. was flown to Mercy Hospital, where he was listed in serious condition Thursday morning. The other three employees were treated at Jameson Hospital and released, according to Joy Chandler, vice president for corporate relations of Kennemetal, International Specialty Alloys’ parent company. Their names were not provided. Neshannock firefighters were called to the plant at 9:34 a.m. The cause of the explosion, which fire officials said could be felt and heard up to two miles away, is under investigation, but it appears to be accidental, they said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. According to the company’s Web site, the firm produces master alloys used in the aerospace, superalloy and computer industry. The fire department said materials involved in the explosion were a combination of aluminum powder and niobium oxide, which are routinely used in the company’s manufacturing process. A fire that occurred at the time of the explosion was extinguished by the blast itself, and there was no fire damage to the building, the department’s statement noted. However, Fire Chief John DiCola said earlier in the day that the building “appears to have suffered significant structural damage.” The roof is “bulged up” and some of the sheet metal in the roof is torn and some columns inside the building have been damaged. “You can imagine this was a pretty ferocious explosion.” The preliminary damage estimate to the building has been listed at $500,000. Firefighters had to use extinguishers to control some smoldering debris. The fire department’s statement added that residents of two neighboring homes were evacuated by Neshannock police, but were allowed to return when the area was determined to be safe. Chandler said the company will have engineers assess the damage to the building Thursday. It will remain closed until it is determined to be safe for workers to return, she said. The company’s adjacent building was unaffected by the blast and will continue operations. Chandler said International Specialty Alloys will do an analysis to determine the cause of the explosion. The company has been using the same process for five years “without this kind of incident ever happening,” she said. Larry Wilson, who works at nearby Golf Cart Supply, said that when the explosion occurred, “I felt it. It just felt like the whole building shook.” Kenny Lewis, shop foreman at Golf Cart Supply, said the explosion “made a puff of smoke,” but no fire. The smoke then “fanned out” and made the sky gray for about 15 minutes, he said. Bob Dorr, another Golf Cart Supply employee, said, “I heard a boom, I turned and there came the smoke.” The scene was declared under control at 9:59 a.m., although units remained on the scene until 12:48 p.m. In addition to the Neshannock police, the fire department was assisted by the Mahoning Township Fire Department, state police, the Lawrence County Department of Public Safety and ambulance personnel.

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