Fire investigators have completed the first phase of the probe into Monday’sfactory explosion and fire in southeast Iowa that killed one worker andinjured five others. Keokuk Fire Chief Mark Wessel says there was a chemicalblast first, then fire broke out at the B-T-R Sealing System plant.The explosion in a plugged-up pipe acted with the same properties as a pipebomb. He says the chemical sprayed was sodium nitrate which caught fire anderupted in a fireball. Chief Wessel couldn’t say what caused the pipe toclog — nor could he comment on whether the rubber products company may benegligent.Wessel calls the worker’s death a “tragedy for the entire department” as theman killed was a retired Keokuk firefighter. 53-year-old Daniel Droe leftthe department after 17 years due to a heart condition and went to work atB-T-R. Wessel says Droe died of severe burns sustained while trying to putout the fire.Droe died Monday night while being rushed to University Hospitals in IowaCity. His funeral in Keokuk is scheduled for Friday — and it will includefull firefighter honors.
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