Chandler community left shaken after explosion at business leaves 4 people badly hurt
CHANDLER, Ariz. - An explosion at a print shop near Ray Road and Rural rocked nearby Chandler homes Thursday morning, and fire crews worked to put out the flames.
The Chandler Fire Department says they are treating four patients, all in serious to critical condition.
Health officials said two men were in critical condition in an intensive care unit with the other two in serious condition. But all four of them were expected to recover.
The victims were identified as Andrew and Dillon Ryan, brothers who own the print shop, along with Parker Milldebrandt, and an employee of a nearby eyeglass repair shop. All of the victims appeared to have suffered second-degree "propane flash burns" to their arms, hands and legs.
"It’s amazing to me anyone walked out of that alive," said Dr. Kevin Foster, director of the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health. "Yeah, it’s really baffling that this explosion of this magnitude and injuries were not worse than they are."
They reportedly had burns ranging from 16% to 30% of their bodies and all will need surgery and extended hospital stays, but the injuries could have been worse considering the extent of the damage.
The incident drew a huge response, with about 50 emergency vehicles and over 100 personnel from seven different agencies.
Explosion happened inside printing shop
The explosion happened inside of Platinum Printing at around 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 26. By the time first responders arrived, the roof had already collapsed and a fire was burning inside.
The inside of the building is completely destroyed, with broken glass, splintered wood and insulation littering the parking lot. Debris from the blast was found up to 100 yards away.
A branch library, a preschool and about a dozen businesses in the strip mall were evacuated. No injuries were reported apart from the people who were inside the print shop but a few nearby businesses were damaged, Welch said.
In total, 20 to 30 homes along with 15 businesses were evacuated, according to Chandler Fire.
The Maxwell Preschool Academy, which is located in the same plaza, was evacuated to Sunrise Preschool across the street.
Fire officials are working with Southwest Gas to take care of any gas leaks in the area, and the gas has been turned off. The company released the following statement:
Southwest Gas is aware of an incident in the area of Ray Road and Rural Road in Chandler, Arizona. Safety is our top priority and our crews have turned gas off to the area and are working with first responders to ensure the area is safe and secure. Our hearts are with those who were injured by this incident and we thank first responders for their quick response.
Authorities have not confirmed the cause of the explosion. They did say they are not looking for a suspect.
Fire officials also said a natural gas leak was detected at the site after the explosion, but it is currently unknown whether the gas leak was the cause of the explosion, or a result of the explosion.
Victims face long road to recovery
On Aug. 27, we have learned the identity of the four people who were hurt in the blast.
Two of the victims, Andrew and Dillon Ryan, own the printing shop where the incident happened. Another victim, Parker Mildebrandt, was a worker at the printing shop. He is currently in a coma.
"This is not a company that was mixing volatile chemicals or working with flammables or acids. It was ink and toner," said Tom Ryan, an attorney representing the three victims.
Ryan said all three men have lost their livelihoods in the blast, and they have young families to support.
"This company was their sole source of income. Right now, the business is out of business. These are three young families, Parker is about ready to have his first son born on September 7," said Tom Ryan.
The fourth victim, Glenn Jordan, is the general manager of an eyeglass repair shop located a couple of stores down from the print shop. He is currently in ICU.
"He’s been sedated due to the extensive burns to his body, his arms. They had to do surgery to release pressure," said Harriet Munguia-Lugo, who owns the business.
Munguia-Lugo has worked with Jordan for 30 years, and she said the entire staff is devastated.
"He'll come back. We know how determined he is. He'll be back. Just pray," said Munguia-Lugo.
Witnesses describe scene
A man identified only as ‘Edward’ was in the strip mall when the explosion happened, and he ran towards the victims to help.
"One brother was concerned about his brother, but he was already coming outside. We didn’t have to go inside," said Edward.
The owner of a nearby eyeglass repair shop, Harriet Munguia Lugo, said one of her employees was hurt in the blast.
"My son went over to him and he says ‘what’s happened to me?’ He told him his hands, skin was all burned off. His hair was burnt," said Munguia Lugo.
Explosion shook nearby homes
The power of the explosion shook homes in the area.
"Shook the floor. It was like a bomb," said a man who lives in the area, identified only as ‘Bob.’
"Thought the whole house was coming apart. It was that loud. It was unreal," said Mark Shiele. He and Adrienne Schiele live in the area, down the road from where the explosion happened.
"It just shook the house. It was unbelievable, so I ran out of the house and I could see a huge plume of smoke," said Mark.
"I thought it was a car accident, then I heard the second explosion, and I thought it was an earthquake," said Adrienne.
Video from surveillance cameras in the Schiele's backyard show some of the impact of the explosion, with the ground shaking and debris flying in the air.
People living in the area say they were given an ‘all clear’ to return to their homes, about an hour after they were told to evacuate from the area. At one point, several babies at a daycare in the area were taken to a safe place.
(GoFundMe for Andrew and Dillon Ryan)
(GoFundMe for Parker Milldebrandt)
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