2 Missoula auto body workers burned when fumes explode

2013-08-19T17:00:00Z 2014-04-05T20:04:30Z 2 Missoula auto body workers burned when fumes explode

Two employees of Rick’s Auto Body were injured Monday morning – one seriously – after lacquer thinner fumes exploded in an enclosed area in the back of the shop.

Missoula City Fire Marshal Gordy Hughes said two workers were caught in the fire when static electricity caused paint fumes to ignite, and explode.

Hughes said two other employees rushed to the area after they heard someone yell fire, and doused the flames with a fire extinguisher.

One man was seriously injured and another had minor burns and injuries related to inhaling fumes from the explosion, Hughes said.

He said several items in the shop also caught on fire, but the auto body shop itself sustained minimal damage.

“We’ll be looking at things like what kind of protective system they have in place,” Hughes said.

The names of the victims were not released to the press.

Both men were transported to St. Patrick Hospital, Hughes said. The seriously injured man was then taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, because of the extent and severity of his burns.

Reporter Kathryn Haake can be reached at 523-5268 or at

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(11) Comments

  1. patti salmonsen burton
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    patti salmonsen burton - August 22, 2013 3:30 pm
  2. tfs1150
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    tfs1150 - August 21, 2013 9:22 pm
    My thoughts and prayers go out to the Hall family and friends. I also send my condolences out to Rick Booth and all his workers, I am sure they are devastated as well. I have known Rick for over 30 years and have worked for him twice, and I can attest that he is an extremely conscientious and caring person and business owner. He is a fine individual and he and Rhonda have built a great business by caring for their employees and clientele in an honest and forthright manner. If there had been a known issue that was unsafe, Rick would have been the first to see that it was rectified in a short hurry.
    I can say with a fair amount of certainty that this accident would have taken place in the open air. Because it involved the transfer of an extremely volatile liquid into an ungrounded most likely plastic container. The cause of the ignition was the static electricity that built up during that transfer, and even a large fan blowing directly over the operation would not have stopped the static, it might have even added to it.
    This tragic accident has given all of us in the auto body repair industry pause, and the safe techniques we use to fill our lawn mower gasoline cans at the filling station would have sufficed to prevent this accident. NEVER fill a plastic or any other type of can with volatile liquids when it is not firmly placed upon the ground!
    Just for some information, most large shops are required by OSHA and their liability insurance companies to have a safety officer who is in charge of training employees. I am fairly certain Rick followed this practice. In the end, body shops are dangerous work environments, and it is up to each employee to practice safe techniques when performing their duties.
    Again, I extend my deep condolences to the Hall family, and to the crew and ownership of Ricks Auto Body.
  3. Hockey-dog
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    Hockey-dog - August 20, 2013 9:50 am
    I personally took a tour of Rick's after it was built. It is 100% state of the art. For those of you who are bad mouthing Rick, shame on you. Rick is one of the kindest, most caring individuals I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He gives to the community, not only financially, but his time is spent helping others as well. If for a second you think Rick and his family, had any knowledge of something not being at code, I assure you it would have been fixed. What needs to happen before a lot of finger pointing, is an investigation needs to be done. If the inspector who checked the ventilation gave it a passing grade then how would that be the shop's fault?
    So before you start blaming (lostinzoola) or make snarky comments (Roger), let's see what the investigation brings up. Whoever is at fault, I'm sure there will be reprocussions.
    At this juncture, I think it would be important to help the families of those who are suffering today their loss.
  4. LPope
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    LPope - August 20, 2013 8:30 am
    Missoula and Ricks lost an amazing and wonderful man lastnight. He gave his all to his job and will be greatly missed. I love him dearly. Please send your prayers and warm thoughts out to his family and many friends. This is a time for grieving not blame. I am sure the employee's and owner's of Ricks are heart broken for this terrible accident as is ALL that knew him. My world is shattered.
  5. PhilL
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    PhilL - August 20, 2013 8:20 am
    Nancy - I am so sorry to hear this. My thoughts are with your family.
  6. Janice
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    Janice - August 20, 2013 7:55 am
    Nancy, I am so sorry. Please let your family know that alot of people in Missoula are thinking about your dad-in-law.
  7. that-guy
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    that-guy - August 19, 2013 10:59 pm
    Proper ventilation? What is proper ventilation? I happen to know that the ventilation in that room is up to code otherwise it would have never passed inspection when the shop was built.
  8. nonloso
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    nonloso - August 19, 2013 8:52 pm
    lostinzoola, I doubt you have friends, let alone friends that work. If you had one ounce of intelligence or ANY knowledge of this type of business, you would pause and think before you mouth off. Let the experts do their due diligence and discover what went wrong. This is a long standing Missoula business with a great reputation and no history of wrong doing, a state of the art building and I know Rick and crew do their best to ensure safety.
  9. Roger
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    Roger - August 19, 2013 3:58 pm
    Hopefully not enough fumes to be explosive, just enough to be smelled - two different events. You've got to have ventilation.
  10. skillz
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    skillz - August 19, 2013 3:08 pm
    The comments above are ridiculous - this could have happened anywhere and at any shop. Unfortunately it happened at Rick's Auto Body - a long standing Missoula business with a great reputation. Have you ever walked into a paint shop - fumes will be there no matter what kind of system you have?
  11. lostinzoola
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    lostinzoola - August 19, 2013 2:29 pm
    “We’ll be looking at things like what kind of protective system they have in place,” Hughes said.

    Yeah, they better. A few friends of mine worked there, from what they told me that place doesn't do jack to ensure worker safety.
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