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Fatal blast at Illinois electronics plant

25 May 2012

An explosion in the electronics testing area of Arens Controls at Arlington Heights in the northern Chicago suburbs killed one and injured 12 on May 22. Three police officers and two firefighters were amongst the injured.

Initially, authorities said the explosion appeared to be accidental, but investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, and the Arlington Heights Police Forensics Unit have not made any final ruling.

"There's a lot of damage inside, so it's hard to tell right now if it was the chemical itself or the machine," Arlington Heights Police Cmdr. Ken Galinski was reported as saying in local newspapers. "There's a lot of destruction and devastation in there from the equipment that exploded."

OSHA spokesman Scott Allen said agency investigators will be interviewing employees and witnesses, and their investigation could take up to six months.

Investigators will be looking at whether potassium hydroxide — a potentially explosive and toxic chemical — was a factor in the explosion. The blast also sparked a small fire, which was quickly extinguished, and released a diluted form of potassium hydroxide into the air.

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