Company at center of paint plant explosion offers answers to Columbus community

Columbus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – It’s now been more than four months since the explosion and fire at the Yenkin-Majestic Paint Plant on Leonard Avenue, but community members are somewhat satisfied with the answers they got during a meeting with the company Tuesday.

It was a meeting community members have been waiting for for months.

The meeting began with company CEO Andrew Smith reading a prepared statement, then community members asking him questions they still had.

A liaison for Yenkin-Majestic said Smith would not appear at the meeting with news cameras in the room due to company policy and a previous understanding with community leaders. He did join the meeting after the cameras left. NBC4 was invited to the meeting by the community.

Neighbors have had questions about the insurance process for damage to their homes, emergency notification processes for neighbors, and what’s being done to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. They also voiced environmental concerns.

An employee, Wendell Light, died in the explosion, and several others were injured.

In his prepared statement, Smith apologized for the fear that was caused by the fire and blast that night.

He also said the explosion and fire started in the paint resin plant on the property and that because a safe cleanup and evacuation process is slow, the equipment at the center of the accident has not been reached by crews yet.

Smith estimates that should happen within the next month and then more answers should be revealed about what caused the explosion.

Smith said testing after the fire showed no emissions were released into the community.

A statement read by Smith at the meeting said, in part:

This is a tragic accident, and we are very sorry this happened; we are sorry we have caused you fear and concern; and we are sorry we have impacted our neighborhood. I am here to promise that we will listen to our neighbors. We can never bring back Wendell Light or undo all of the injuries suffered by our colleagues. But we will fix anything we have damaged that can be fixed. We will be transparent and accountable. We will share with you what we know, once we know it. And we will strive to be better neighbors in the future.

Yenkin-Majestic CEO Andrew Smith

Smith’s full statement can be read by clicking the link below.

“I feel this was a positive meeting,” said Columbus resident Alfonso Hooper. “But I don’t want this just to be just a show and tell meeting.”

Alfonso and Sylvia Hooper said the blast left their front door and windows uneven, and cracked their brick wall.

Asmara Williams is also worried about possible foundation issues with her home.

“It’s a start, but it’s going to be a process,” Williams said. “We want everyone’s homes to be checked to make sure they’re safe.”

According to Yenkin-Majestic, more than 40 neighbors have filed formal insurance claims. An attorney for the insurance company was at Tuesday’s meeting and the company shared a phone number if neighbors feel like there were missed and still need to file.

“This is a good first step, but we’ll see how it goes from here,” Sylvia Hooper said.

“I am satisfied, but I’m a person who believes in results,” Alfonso Hooper added. “I can’t say I’m completely satisfied because talk is one thing and action is another.”

Neighbors also want the company to have a better alert system for the community if something goes wrong. The CEO said it will strive to be better neighbors in the future.

Neighbors wishing to file a claim with the insurance company are asked to call 614-253-8511.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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