Eight in hospital, some seriously injured, after Newfoundland refinery explosion

·2 min read

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Eight people were sent to hospital Friday after an explosion at a refinery in Come By Chance, N.L., about 150 kilometres west of St. John's, police said.

RCMP said some were seriously injured in the blast and had to be airlifted to St. John's, though Cpl. Jolene Garland could not confirm how many.

"The fire caused by the explosion has been contained leaving no further danger at the worksite and all employees have been accounted for," the Mounties said in a news release Friday night. Both police and the province's Occupational Health and Safety division have launched an investigation into the incident, the release said.

Refinery owner Braya Renewable Fuels said in a statement earlier Friday evening that the company will cooperate fully with investigations by authorities.

"We will do everything we can to support (those injured) and their families during this time," the statement said.

The refinery is a main source of employment in the town of Come By Chance and its neighbouring community of Arnold's Cove. Together, the two municipalities are home to about 1,200 people.

The refinery produced oil before it was sold in November, though it had been idled for over a year amid crashing global oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic. Texas-based private equity firm Cresta Fund Management bought a controlling stake in the refinery and announced it would be converted to produce renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel. The facility and its operator was then renamed Braya Renewable Fuels.

As of Friday, that conversion from an oil-producing plant to a biofuel operation was still in process, said a company spokesperson.

Local police asked people to stay away from the refinery so as not to interrupt emergency crews or investigators. Later Friday, the local RCMP in Clarenville, N.L., closed a Sobeys grocery store parking lot to traffic so emergency aircraft could land and pick up injured people.

Garland said several aircraft, including a Cormorant helicopter, were called in to transport injured people from the small hospital in Clarenville to the provincial capital for care.

Premier Andrew Furey tweeted his concern Friday for those who had been hurt in the explosion.

"I have been speaking with representatives of the company and union to share concern and good wishes for the injured workers, their families, friends, and coworkers," Furey wrote. "Thank you to all responding to this incident."

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan also tweeted about the incident. He represents the Newfoundland district of St. John's South-Mount Pearl.

"We’re all thinking of the injured workers at the Come By Chance refinery and their families," O'Regan wrote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2022.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press