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Deadly Tesoro blast injures Oak Harbor grad
A 1994 Oak Harbor High School graduate, 34-year-old Matt Gumbel, is in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after an explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes early Friday morning.
By 2:30 p.m. Friday, more than 40 people had visited Gumbel’s Caring Bridge Web site, an online page created that morning to keep family and friends updated on his condition.
“Matt has burns over 2/3 of his body and a tear in his trachea which has caused a lung to collapse. The next 24 to 48 hours are very critical. If he survives the next 24 to 48 hours he will be here for 60 to 90 days,” according to the “my story” page.
The Web site is available at www.caringbridge.org/visit/mattgumbel.
Tesoro confirmed four fatalities resulting from a fire at the company’s Anacortes refinery at approximately 12:30 a.m. Four employees, including Gumbel, were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment; one of them, a 29-year-old woman, later died at the hospital.
Daniel J Aldridge, 50, of Anacortes, Matthew C. Bowen, 31, of Arlington, and Darrin J. Hoines, 43, of Ferndale were confirmed dead at the scene.
Gumbel and two others — an unidentified 41-year-old man and an unidentifed 36-year-old woman — remain in critical condition in intensive care with burns covering most of their bodies, according to Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hanson.
The fire sparked at the naphtha hydro-treater as employees put a piece of equipment back in service, according to the company. Responders extinguished the fire and there are no reports of off-site impacts related to the deadly blaze.
Tesoro’s Emergency Incident Command responded to the incident and the affected unit is shut down and stabilized. The cause is still unknown.
“This is a very sad time for our organization. Everyone in the Tesoro family appreciates the impact that this will have on the families involved, and we are responding quickly to ensure the safety for our employees, contractors and the neighboring community,” said Bruce Smith, Tesoro’s chairman, president and CEO, in a press release.
The first Marsh Point refinery was built in 1955. Today it’s owned and operated by Tesoro Petroleum, which operates seven refineries in the western United States.
The last major accident at a nearby refinery just south of Tesoro — Equilon Enterprise — occurred in November 1998. Six men died after an explosion and fire that ripped through an area known as the delayed-coking unit.
The refinery was fined $1.1 million and ordered to complete a safety review in a 1999 lawsuit filed by the state of Washington.