NDK Tower Being Demolished

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BELVIDERE (WIFR) – A tower at a Belvidere plant is being demolished more than five years after a fatal explosion.

Workers are taking down the former production structure at NDK in Belvidere. Crews with Cord Construction Company are cutting the tower into pieces. The project costs about $950,000 and is expected to be done in mid-June.

NDK’s Presidents says production is on hold indefinitely, but other departments are still working there.

In 2009, a malfunction with a pressure vessel caused debris to fly out of the building, killing a man at a gas station off I-90.

NDK ignored warning and inspections, that’s what the U.S. Chemical Safety Board found after investigating the deadly 2009 Belvidere Plant Explosion. WIFR got to sit in on the finding as the results were made public today.

On December 7th, 2009 desks shook at an auto supply office building, an 8,000 pound vessel fragment just crashed through the wall. It flew 435 feet from the NDK plant after a vessel exploded. A vessel that investigators say was corroded and cracked and there were other problems.

“Poor design, the failure of robust inspection process and the failure to take heed of warning that were initiated during inspection,” said Johnnie Banks the lead investigator for NDK.

One specific warning came in 2007, after a leak at the plant. A safety auditor determined the incident was due to poorly designed vessels and said they should be shut down.

The structure of the NDK plant still stands today and so does the memory of what happened after a 100-pound steel beam flew 650 feet to the Belvidere Oasis, killing a trucker. Oasis security video shows the steam and debris, moments after the explosion.

“Public safety latterly and figuritvely fell through the cracks,” said Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso, CSB Chairman.
Part of an ongoing investigation looks at how close these potentially hazardous facilities are to people.
“These unsafe facilities should be away from places like homes, schools, or in this case, a rest stop, Smart zoning would’ve saved this truck driver’s life.”

The attorney for NDK tells us they’re still reviewing the report, but he says the company has been producing crystals for more than 60 years so their safety record speaks for itself. In that 2007 warning, NDK was told there could be a catastrophic rupture and that anyone at the Belvidere Oasis could be impacted.

The trucker who was killed at the Oasis after the explosion was 63 year old Ronald Greenfield from Northwestern Indiana. We talked to Greenfield’s sister today who says her family was shocked when the freak accident happened. However, she says she doesn’t hold any resentment toward NDK.

“He was pretty young for something like that to happen and he was planning on getting married and we had all just gotten together recently. I just don’t understand what happened, but it’s just a shame.”

The victim’s sister says dealing with Greenfield’s death was a little easier since the family had just seen him a week before.

He was the youngest of 9 children and at the time for the explosion one of his sisters was actually living in Belvidere.

UPDATE: According to a preliminary investigation, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has determined the cause of the 2009 explosion at a Belvidere manufacturing company that killed a man. It says it was from corrosion in a pressure vessel that had not been inspected in years.

In a report presented in Rockford Thursday, the board wrote synthetic quartz crystals were growing in a vessel at an extremely high pressure and temperature at NDK Crystal in Belvidere. It then violently ruptured, sending a piece of steel out of the building. It hit a truck driver walking back to his vehicle.

The report says another piece from the vessel weighing over 8,000 pounds was blown across a parking lot and into an automotive supply company. One person was injured.

The board's chairperson says the vessels didn't meet national codes and Illinois allowed three of the vessels to be installed under a special exemption. He says the vessels were incorrectly labeled as in non-corrosive service. The manufacturer recommended annual inspections but NDK nor Illinois ever did inspect the vessels.

In January 2007, a third-party safety auditor advised not to use any of the eight vessels because possible injuries or deaths could occur. NDK Crystal's insurance carrier had called the auditor after an uncontrolled leak of hot, causting material from another pressure vessel. The consultant said the accident was due to the vessel's improper design.

The state had conducted inspections of the vessel that exploded in 2003, 2006 and just a few months before the accident in 2009. These inspections only focused on the outside of the vessel though and did not look for corrosion inside.

NDK Crystal has not resumed operations since the accident. If it were to restart, the board is calling for rigorous safety procedures, including the Illinois State Fire Marshal to prohibit NDK from using any existing pressure vessels for crystal growing.

UPDATE: BELVIDERE (WIFR) – The final report from the federal agency investigating the NDK explosion in Belvidere four years ago has been released.

The findings revealed there were design flaws in the vessels in the facility. The flaws were pointed out to management. The report goes on to say they failed to respond to recommendations to fix those issues. Four years ago, pressure built up in one of the vessels triggering an explosion that sent parts of the building into the nearby Belvidere Oasis. An Indiana truck driver was killed in the blast.

We will have more on this story tonight on 23 News at 5.

BELVIDERE (WIFR) -- A federal agency is expected to release its finally report into the fatal 2009 explosion at the NDK plant in Belvidere.

The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board will make the results public during a meeting on November 15th at the Radisson Hotel in Rockford. You may remember a malfunction with a pressure vessel located inside the building just off I-90 caused debris to fly violently out of the building, killing a man at a nearby gas station and damaging a nearby business.

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