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Federal Officials Investigating Cause Of Explosion At Beechcraft Facility

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Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the scene of an explosion Friday at the Textron Aviation plant in east Wichita.

Officials say 15 people were injured – one critically – when a nitrogen line ruptured, leading to the explosion. The blast heavily damaged the Plant 3 building at the former Beechcraft plant, near Central and Webb.

Plant 3 houses composite manufacturing and experimental aircraft fabrication, according to Textron Aviation spokeswoman Stephanie Harder.

Roz Hutchinson, a spokeswoman for the Ascension Via Christi health system, said nine people were taken to St. Francis hospital. She said one was in critical condition, three were in serious condition and four others who were treated either had been released or were expected to be soon. She said the ninth patient was still being assessed.

Four people were treated at the scene of the explosion.

The blast just after 8 a.m. rattled houses in east Wichita. Harder says the plant was closed for the holidays and there was minimal staffing when the explosion occurred.

Harder says company engineers and Sedgwick County building officials have begun assessing damage to the Plant III building.

“To make sure we understand the safety of the structure, what that looks like, what it’s going to take to get that back operational and what the timeline is associated with that,” she said.

She said it’s too early to know when the building might be operational again.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is a board member of the Public Media Journalists Association, serving as small station representative, a volunteer coach for League 42 and an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.