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Thu October 23, 2008 - Southeast Edition
On Dec. 19, 2007, an immense explosion at a neighboring business called T2 Laboratories completely destroyed the nearly new Masthead Hose & Supply service center on Faye Road in Jacksonville, Fla. Nine months later, the structure is rebuilt and nearly ready for occupancy. The location is projected to re-open for business during the month of October.
“For eight months, we’ve been sharing space at our Orange Park location, which has worked well, but our customers miss the convenience of a Northside location,” said Danny Johnson, who manages the service center.
According to investigators, the blast occurred when a reactor at T2 Laboratories ruptured during the process of producing a highly flammable gasoline additive. Several other buildings in the area were damaged as a shockwave sent debris, including steel beams and sections of metal pipe, in all directions. T2 Laboratories itself was engulfed in flames. Mike Meadows, an inside sales representative at Masthead, was shocked to see a mushroom cloud in the distance as he returned from lunch.
Inside Masthead’s building, employees saw their normally clean, orderly warehouse instantly turned into a disaster zone. Sales Representative Conrad Barrs noted, “It seemed as if all the air was getting sucked up out of our building just before the walls came in, knocking me off my feet onto the counter. It was real terrifying not knowing what else was in store, not knowing if the rest of the employees were safe … not knowing was just as bad as the explosion.”
An investigator from the Chemical Safety Board said the blast was “among the most powerful ever examined” by that federal agency. Rebuilding has been under way since February, and was expected to be completed by Oct. 1. In the meantime, the 18 employees assigned to the location have been eagerly anticipating the re-opening.
“Everyone is very excited about the completion of the building, especially those customers who have relied on us for walk-in counter service,” said Johnson.