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1 killed in Mississippi refinery blast, fire

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 15, 2013 at 3:08 pm •  Published: November 15, 2013

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the cause of an explosion and fire at a southern Mississippi refinery Friday that killed one worker.

An operator at the Cracking II Processing Unit died after something detonated inside a furnace and sparked a fire, Chevron Mississippi general manager Tom Kovar said. The operators were outside the furnace at the time and the fire was contained to a small area.

He identified the victim as Tonya Graddy, who had worked as an operator at Chevron for five years. Graddy was among about a dozen workers in the area when the explosion happened, Kovar said, but there were no other injuries.

Jackson County Coroner Vicki Broadus said Graddy was from Semmes, Ala. She was about 50 years old.

The cracking area of the refinery is the first step in breaking down crude oil into various components so it can become gasoline or coke. It's a hot process and furnaces are involved. The refinery is located east of Pascagoula and runs round the clock.

"We're trying to piece together all the facts and data now," he said. "The most important thing now is that we keep the refinery running securely and deal with the investigation ... to get to the root cause of the event," Kovar said.

Crews secured the unit and isolated the fire to keep it from spreading, and the refinery kept running, he said.

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