The building where Textron Aviation is fabricating its new SkyCourier twin-engine turboprop was rocked by a liquid nitrogen explosion around 8 a.m. this morning, sending 11 people to Wichita-area hospitals and leaving a massive hole and partial collapse to a side of the building designated as Plant III. Authorities told AIN that despite rumors of a fatality, there were none.
“We do not have any information to suggest there was a loss of life today,” Sedgwick County EMS medical director John Gallagher told AIN. “There was one patient who had potentially serious injuries, but I don’t have the details on how serious.”
Fire crews were dispatched to Textron Aviation’s campus in east Wichita at 8:05 a.m. today following reports of an explosion that could be heard and felt several miles away. Sedgwick County deputy fire chief Daniel Wegner told AIN that a cause of the explosion wasn’t immediately known but there was a three-inch line carrying liquid nitrogen to the building that ruptured and “caused a rupture to another vessel and that is the one that is currently venting now." Crews were continuing to search the massive building for any additional workers as well as assessing the extent of the damage and “checking the distribution systems to make sure we don’t have any potentials for secondary rupture,” he added.
Wegner noted the plant was on holiday shutdown so a “skeleton crew” was working at the time of the explosion. “But I don’t have numbers of how many people were in the plant at this time."
Textron Aviation spokeswoman Stephanie Harder told AIN that Plant III houses the airframer’s composite manufacturing and experimental aircraft fabrication. She confirmed it is where the SkyCourier is located but wasn’t sure if any of the test articles or prototypes were affected. “We don’t have the extent of those details at this time,” she said.