ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — An employee was seriously burned in an explosion at a Round Rock business on Friday.
Police were initially asking people to avoid the area of Sam Bass Road between Woods Boulevard and Chisolm Trail. Friday night, the Austin Police Department Bomb Squad was at the scene.
Emergency crews were called to Energetic Materials & Products, Inc. located at 1413 Brandi Ln. at 2:05 p.m. Two employees were working inside the building when the explosion happened. One employee suffered serious burns and was flown by helicopter to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
The company’s CEO, Dennis Wilson, says the employee — a technician who started work there 8 months ago — was handling reactive material when the explosion happened. Energetic Materials develops and tests ballistics, explosives and pyrotechnics, according to their website. Round Rock Fire says the company makes breaching tools with charges, something police or military would use to breach a door.
Wilson tells KXAN that the victim is still recovering at BAMC in critical but stable condition. According to an attending physician, the next 24 to 48 hours will determine his recovery trajectory.
Dave Wiederkehr says it’s difficult to think about what he saw. “He was burning. He was on fire and his face was burnt. You can’t describe it. Skin was hanging off his back.” Wiederkehr operates the motorcycle shop across the street. Over the last 8 months, he has become friends with the victim. “He just recently got a dog from an animal rescue. Crazy about a little German Shepherd.”
Wiederkehr said the first thing he heard the employee say when he came out of building on fire was, “Where’s my dog?”
Sunday morning Wiederkehr said that the dog was in a different part of the building and ran out of the building when the explosion happened. She was unharmed and caught but people in the area. “The dog was fine, my friend is not.”
Fire officials say the explosion was powerful enough to cause some structural damage to the building. Pictures show the front of the building was blown away.
Firefighters evacuated everyone out of the facility and officials sent out an automated emergency call to neighbors to let them know what was happening. Crews are currently in the cleanup process.
The company CEO tells KXAN News nothing like this has happened at his business before. He says the fire department as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will conduct an inspection of the facility.
ATF Agent Nicole Strong said Saturday the company had been inspected within the last three years, which is standard. She could not elaborate on the findings of the inspection but did say there is no indication the business is unsafe for the area.
Kristopher Underwood works a few buildings away. He said he never heard an explosion, but saw a lot of smoke.
“The police came and actually asked us to exit the building due to high explosives that were in the building. They were really worried about that,” said Underwood.
Less than two hours before the explosion in Round Rock, a shelter in place was put into effect in a Pflugerville neighborhood due to a “toxic explosion.” A chemical distribution company was working with liquid ammonia sulfate, which caused a reaction that under pressure ruptured and created a chlorine smell. No one was injured.