Bayer Explosion Kills Two, Shines Light on Communication Problems
- Story by Gretchen Mae Stone, State Journal, WV
Responders said it was inexcusable that Bayer didn't provide information sooner, and that firefighters and officers were in areas that may or may not have been safe.
Tom Dover of Bayer said a company representative believed he had issued a standby, but that obviously hadn't happened. In a standby, outside assistance is needed but a communitywide shelter-in-place order is not.
"I'm not here to bang Bayer's head up against the wall, but the biggest frustration for everybody was 'what the heck is going on?' ...," Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said. "For quite some time, they wouldn't even confirm there was an explosion at the plant, so that was a big problem."
St. Albans Police Chief Joe Crawford said the scene was mass chaos.
"At the sheriff's detachment, it looked like a movie theater," he said during the forum. "People driving in there, trying to look directly across at what was going on."
Time and time again, emergency responders said their biggest problem was a lack of communication, not just from Bayer, but also among communities and the county.
"We had the cloud come down over the top of our city, the same way as St. Albans. If it had been something worse than what it was, it could have killed a lot of people. ...," Nitro Police Lt. Joseph Savilla said at the time.