Four months later, neighbors waiting on answers from deadly paint plant explosion

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – It has been about four months since a deadly explosion at the Yenkin-Majestic Paint Plant by Leonard Avenue shook the neighborhood.

Neighbors are still looking for answers, gathering at the plant Monday.

The explosion happened April 8 and the site is still a huge pile of rubble.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said it’s working with Yenkin-Majestic as the cleanup continues to make sure it follows all regulations.

One employee died and nine others were hurt when there was an explosion and fire at the plant near downtown Columbus on April 8 just after 12 a.m.

Community members from the area gathered to say they don’t just want answers; they are demanding answers.

The explosion also damaged several homes in the area.

Married for 50 years, Alfonso and Sylvia Hooper have called their house in Brittany Hills home for just about five decades.

“We’ve raised four lovely kids here and we are the first ones that lived in this house,” said Alfonso Hooper.

They were in that house at 12:30 a.m. watching television when there was an explosion outside.

Alfonso Hooper said they went outside along with many of their neighbors and saw big clouds of smoke overhead.

“Just shook the foundation,” said Alfonso Hooper. “Like it just shook the house off the foundation. We were frightened for the health and well-being of us as well as the neighborhood.”

As the crow flies, the home is less than a mile and a half from the Yenkin-Majestic Pain Plant.

Alfonso Hooper said things have been off at the house ever since, saying the explosion shifted the front door and cracked some of the brick wall, leaving him questions about the damage and other concerns from that night.

“How does it affect our bodies as well as the foundations of our properties,” Alfonso Hooper wondered. “We just want to know for the health and well-being of the community. We need to have some answers.” 

The neighbors and community leaders who gathered Monday said they’re not happy with how communication from the company has gone so far.

They added they’re also worried about possible environmental and health impacts of what happened in April.

“I was outside until 3 a.m., and even when you went inside the house and came out, there was clearly a difference in the air,” said Tiffany White, chairperson for the North Central Area Commission. “That cloud covered over our homes for hours.”

The fire department said it is still investigating the cause of the explosion.

Community leaders said they have a meeting scheduled with Yenkin-Majestic later this month.

Yenkin-Majestic issued a statement early Tuesday. It reads:

Today, the Yenkin-Majestic family remembers the tragic accident at our manufacturing facility on Leonard Avenue in Columbus that took place four months ago. We especially remember Wendell Light, our colleague who died from the accident, and our three injured associates who were hospitalized.

During this time we have been concentrating on the health and well-being of our nearly 150 employees and their families. We have also been working with our neighbors who were impacted by this incident, and are grateful that none of them were injured. The company wants to acknowledge the outpouring of support and well-wishes we have received from friends, associates, community members, civic leaders, and neighbors since the accident.

Last week, after months of detailed planning and under the careful supervision of safety officials and experts from local, state, and federal agencies, the company took a major step forward in our rebuilding efforts by starting the debris removal and excavation of the damaged buildings and equipment. This effort will also assist the investigators in determining the cause of the accident, which remains undetermined.

Due to the immediate emergency response of company employees, clean-up contractors, the Columbus Fire Department, and Ohio EPA the environmental impact of the accident was limited. “We installed perimeter air monitors the same day as the accident, placed berms around the property to retain fire-suppression water, and had our clean-up contractor on-site immediately to manage any waste,” said the company’s CEO, Andrew Smith.

Ohio EPA reported that all wastes were contained and managed properly, and that nothing harmful was found in the sewer outfall. The Columbus Fire Department reported that the fire was extinguished within 12 hours, and company air monitors were negative for emissions at the perimeter following the fire. The company has sampled over 120 debris piles for asbestos, all of which have been negative.

“Fortunately, there was only minor damage to a handful of adjacent properties, and we have already processed most of the claims that have been submitted,” said Mr. Smith. “Our insurance carrier has worked with 22 neighboring property owners or businesses to address their concerns of localized damage. Insurance claim professionals have been out in the neighborhood since April talking to neighbors, assessing their claims, and communicating with these neighbors to help them through the claim process,” he added.

The company had planned an initial update on the incident at a meeting organized by Columbus Public Health on June 15, which was later cancelled by local group leaders. We are eager to engage with the community regarding progress since the incident, and to continue to work together as good neighbors. A second community meeting is scheduled for August 17 to provide additional updates. Insurance representatives for Yenkin-Majestic will also be present for questions.

Yenkin-Majestic is owned and operated by a local family. The company opened its Leonard Avenue facility in 1954 and has called Columbus home for over 101 years.

Yenkin-Majestic statement on April explosion at Leonard Avenue plant

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