One Dead In Newburyport Seqens Explosion As Lawmakers Demand Explanation

An industrial vat sits in the parking lot of the Seqens plant after a massive explosion on Thursday.Photo: Newburyport Fire Department

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Firefighters have recovered the body of a worker killed in Thursday's Seqens plant explosion in Newburyport. Responders got to the body at about 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. The Essex County D.A. identified the worker who died as 62-year-old Jack O'Keefe of Methuen.

Five workers were in the building when the explosion tore through the chemical plant at about 12:45 a.m. on Thursday. Four were taken to the hospital, treated and released.

The blast was so powerful it blew the roof off the building and threw an car-sized industrial vat 30 feet into the parking lot.

Chemical air monitors are set up around what remains of the plant. Newburyport Fire said there's no danger to the public, but environmental officials are checking local streams for runoff from the explosion.

Firefighters are back at the blast site cleaning up chemicals again on Friday.

A History of Incidents, a Demand for Answers

Lawmakers say it's at least the fifth incident at the Seqens/PCI Synthesis factory since 2015. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, as well as Congressman Seth Moulton sent a letter to the company demanding answers for not only the most recent explosion, but four other safety incidents at the plant.

Another series of explosions ripped through the factory in February 2020. Other OSHA incidents also happened in 2015, 2019, and 2021, all of which the lawmakers asked about. The letter said the four incidents resulted in fines of more than $100,000.

"It is now painfully apparent that your company has failed to create a meaningful or effective safety culture," the letter reads. Senator Markey said O'Keefe worked at the plant for 25 years, and that his death was "an immeasurable loss."

State fire officials are expected to release a fuller report on the incident on Friday. WBZ NewsRadio has reached out to Seqens for comment on the letter.

Updated 11:19 a.m.

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