1 dead after propane tank explodes in Nash County: sheriff
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1 dead after propane tank explodes in Nash County: sheriff

Aug 22, 2023

by: Kathryn Hubbard, Hayley Fixler, Rodney Overton

Posted: Aug 21, 2023 / 12:49 PM EDT

Updated: Aug 21, 2023 / 06:27 PM EDT

CASTALIA, N.C. (WNCN) — A Louisburg man died after a propane tank exploded Monday at a tobacco farm in Nash County.

The silence in the rural part of Castalia, off Red Bud Road, was interrupted around 11 a.m. Monday by a loud boom at a tobacco farm.

The Nash County Sheriff’s Office said one propane tank, next to several tobacco barns, had some sort of explosion when a man was trying to fill them up.

First responder radio traffic indicated the man suffered serious injuries.

“Be advised approximately 20–25-year-old male. Appears that there’s some type of equipment he was working on may have exploded striking him in the face. I believe he has a massive injury to the back of the head as well,” dispatchers said.

Nash County deputies later identified the man who died as Francis Earl Johnson Jr., 25, of Louisburg, who was working for L. H. Dickens at the time.

Officials talked about propane tanks and potential dangers.

“It was an older propane tank. I know that there are a lot of regulations on what has to be done. They have to be checked just like any other time that you’re going to put a chemical or anything hazmat in something,” said Detective Macie Hasty with the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.

A representative with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture told CBS 17 the approximately 500-gallon tanks should not expire.

He also said there are no official inspections for them.

However, the representative said the tanks are required to be examined, by a driver, prior to filling them up, to ensure there are no defects or problems.

It’s part of the department’s codes and standards.

Officials told CBS 17 that typically a gas company owns propane tanks. CBS 17 is working to find out if that’s the case on the tobacco farm.

Investigators said there is still a lot they need to figure out, but later determined there was no foul play in the incident.

“To my knowledge, we have not had anything like this happen before,” said Hasty. “It could be under investigation from OSHA and other state agencies that do handle stuff like this because, like I said, he was filling up a propane tank.”

The victim’s family has been notified, but authorities said they are not releasing his name at this time.

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