NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – An explosion at a cosmetics factory in the Hudson Valley Monday left one person dead and dozens injured — including four firefighters.
One person went unaccounted for for hours, but the man was recovered from the scene of the fire around 7:40 p.m., officials said. The man who died was an employee, but his identity was not being released late Monday.
Some 30 people were also injured, including seven firefighters, authorities said. The firefighters were injured in an explosion that went off once they arrived at the scene.
Two of the firefighters were transported to Westchester for burn injuries, officials said. None of the injuries were considered life threatening.
As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, smoke still lingered in and around the building hours after the explosions rocked the Verla International cosmetics factory.
Saleema Muhammad said her husband, a Newburgh fire lieutenant, was among the injured.
“A wall came down after the explosion, came down on him and he fractured his right ankle. We’re so blessed because it could’ve been so much worse,” injured firefighter’s wife Saleema Muhammad said.
The fire broke out at around 10:19 a.m. Monday at the Verla International plant on Temple Hill Road.
Two explosions went off at the factory, officials said, including an initial blast and fire, and a secondary explosion that occurred when firefighters arrived.
“I was sitting at my desk and I kind of thought it was lightning or something. It was kinda like a big bang and everything kind of shook,” Tessa Castillo told CBS2’s Brian Conybeare.
“We were all working and all of a sudden we heard a big bang,” said Andrea Latoracco. “We all thought something had hit the beams holding up our lab, so we all — all we heard was run!”
Latoracco works as a lab assistant, and said everyone evacuated as quickly as they could.
“When we got downstairs, all that we saw was flames – so everyone just started running,” she said.
The 19-year-old works in the building with two other relatives, including her mother.
“Everyone was scared, crying, and some people fell — trying desperately to get out – but we all helped each other to get out,” Rosa Morante said in Spanish.
Morante, Latoracco and the other relative were taken to St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital to be checked out after inhaling the irritating smoke.
Meanwhile, worker Juan Pablo Marcus said people were choking and gasping for air.
“We just heard the explosion and after that I saw all the people running away,” he said.
Many used bandanas or masks to cover their faces from the thick black and grey smoke, but at least one woman collapsed.
“She was breathing all the smoke and started with the asthma. She got like a panic of asthma so she fell on the floor,” Marcus said.
Fire officials said first responders did not expect a second explosion.
“We are always looking out for the possibility of that, but we do have a job,” Orange County Fire Commissioner Vini Tankalisi said.
Officials ordered a shelter-in-place for a half-mile around the facility since there was initial concern about the chemicals located in the 52,000-square foot facility, which makes nail polish, lipstick and perfume.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Latoracco said. “My chest was hurting and I felt really bad chest pain, and my head was banging.”
Subsequent testing suggested there was no contamination to the air after the explosion and the shelter-in-place has since been lifted.
(credit: Facebook/Sasha Cheparskyy)
More than 30 fire agencies from multiple counties were on the scene to battle the blaze.
Tall plumes of black smoke could be seen emerging from the facility.
An employee of seven years said she never thought of the factory as dangerous, but Occupational Safety and Health Administration records show the company was hit with multiple safety violations earlier this year.
Officials said the air in the area was not considered hazardous. Officials also said they were not concerned about drinking water contamination, and the water remained safe to drink.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)