Workers grieve loss of employee after blast

MARION, Ind. (WISH) – Employees were back on the job Wednesday at a General Motors metal stamping plant in Marion.

James Gibson, 48, died from an explosion inside the plant’s northeast building Tuesday.

“I don’t think words can express how sad everybody is,” said Stephanie Jentgen, the plant’s communications manager.

“Everybody in that plant has a bond some way or another,” said Ronnie Pittman, GM Metal Stamping plant employee.

Gibson was an employee of Quaker Chemical Corporation headquartered in Pennsylvania. He was contracted out by GM a little more than a year ago to supervise the chemical management services division. He’d worked for Quaker since 2001 and was part of the family.

“It’s personal. I know Jim. Our CEO knows Jim. People in other regions of the world in our company know Jim. It’s very tough,” said Joe Berquist, vice president and managing director, North America, Quaker Chemical Corp.

What caused the explosion is under investigation. Jentgen says chlorine dioxide, a highly flammable chemical, was in some way involved.

“Anything we can do to try to find out what was the root cause for this we are going to do,” she said.

Gibson’s family is asking for privacy. Grieving with them are 1,600 stamping plant employees and hundreds more from Quaker.

“Everyone has commented on what a great guy he was,” said Berquist.

“When somebody gets hurt we’re all like family,” said Pittman.

According to Jentgen, this is the first death at the plant since the early 90s. And they hope this could lead to even more safety improvements.

“And we’re just trying to make sure that this never happens again,” said Jentgen.

Records obtained by I-Team 8 show the plant passed its last full safety inspection in 2010. But, a 2013 site visit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management did identify two potential hazards with an underground storage tank and a gas line. Both violations were fixed within 30 days. A report issued last month lists the plant as “fully compliant.”

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