One man is dead and another is critically injured after an oil tank exploded in Arvin. It happened around 9:00 a.m. Tuesday in a field behind the 300 block of Campus Drive. Firefighters say there were two men using a torch to cut up pipe when the torch came in contact with an explosive atmosphere in the pipe.
The explosion caused a 16,000 gallon oil tank to fly 79 feet through the air. "I saw the tank in the air and there was a lot of smoke and a loud boom," said Kayleen Solorio, who witnessed the blast.
The blast was so intense it shook the ground and people working nearby thought there had been an earthquake. The explosion left 24-year-old Cesar Martinez dead and another man severely injured. The two were working for Sky Brand Services. The Bakersfield company specializes in scrap metal cleanup.
The two workers were doing some demolition work on some pipes on or near the oil tanks. "They were believed to have been purged. They were believed to contain no material but unfortunately they did have some material left in those tanks," Derek Tisinger, Kern County Fire Department.
Firefighters say the pipes and tank contained enough hydrocarbon vapors to create an explosive atmosphere. The two men were working behind the Kern County Fire Station. Firefighters saw Martinez fly 100 feet through the air. His co-worker who suffered burns to his legs, was flown to Kern Medical Center.
"It's devastating to us on a personal basis. I've been doing this for 12 years and never have I had even an injury," said Theron Smith, Co-owner, Sky Brand Services.
Theron Smith said he carefully inspected the pipes before the accident. Smith told 17 News it was a "routine" job he had done hundreds of times. He said the owner of the oil tanks, Sun Mountain Oil and Gas Company, told him the tanks were empty and safe.
"Though we took all our steps and we've done it a hundred times and I can verify that our steps were taken, there was something missed," continued Smith.
Martinez's family told 17 News he leaves behind a wife and a two-year-old daughter. Cal OSHA is investigating the accident. Sky Brand Services will also conduct its own investigation.
17 News contacted Sun Mountain Oil and Gas. An unidentified worker who answered the phone said the workers "were not supposed to be around the tanks." He said the owners of the company were out of the country.