A Chico man died in a work-related explosion Wednesday morning at a Bridgeport business.
Jose Jesus Landeros, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene of the blast which happened around 8 outside of the shop at the Bridgeport Tank Trucks yard just north of U.S. 380.
The exact cause of the accident is still unknown as the investigation continues.
Ronald Holley, president and CEO of Bridgeport Tank Trucks, said Landeros, who was known as “Joe” around the shop, was a mechanic who had been working there for about four months.
Because of the ongoing investigation, Holley wouldn’t say exactly what Landeros was doing or what might have caused the blast, but he said Landeros was performing a normal mechanical task at the rear of a tank truck trailer when he was killed.
“He had done this same job multiple times since he began working for us,” Holley said. “This wasn’t the first time he had done this job.”
Contrary to initial reports from law enforcement, Landeros was not welding on the trailer, Holley said. It was initially believed by authorities that Landeros had been welding when fumes inside the trailer ignited, causing the blast. Tank trucks are often used to haul water used in gas production, and Bridgeport Police Chief Randy Singleton said residual fumes in the tank may have played a role in the blast.
“The fire department said there was some kind of residual fumes in that tank,” Singleton said Wednesday. “… We suspect there were gas fumes in there. Very preliminarily, there was some kind of gas that ignited and caused the explosion.”
The explosion blew off the hatch at the back of the trailer, Holley said. Two nearby vehicles also sustained some damage from the blast. Singleton said the debris field covered a 100-foot by 100-foot area.
Landeros was knocked back “several feet” from the force of the blast, according to Singleton. Several other workers were in the shop at the time of the explosion, but no one else was hurt.
Officers were on the scene within about a minute of the explosion, Singleton said, because they heard the explosion while in their patrol cars on U.S. 380.
Carl Russell, president and CEO of The Community Bank located just down the street from Bridgeport Tank Trucks, said he was in his office and heard the explosion as well.
“I thought something had actually hit the roof,” he said. “The two tellers in the drive-through … heard it and saw some smoke from that direction.”
Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Terri Johnson pronounced Landeros dead at the scene. She ordered an autopsy, and Landeros’ body was sent to the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent investigators to the scene Wednesday and Thursday. Holley said he did not know how long it would take OSHA to release their investigation’s findings.
Holley said the shop area was shut down Wednesday morning while the scene was investigated, and he gave shop employees the option to leave for the day if they wanted to. He also said grief counselors were on hand Friday.
Landeros started out working night shifts for the company but had recently moved to the day shift, Holley said.
“He was a good employee,” he said. “Everybody liked him. He was doing us a good job. We certainly hate it.”
He also expressed his sorrow to Landeros’ family.
“Our condolences and our prayers go out to the family,” Holley said. “I wish we could change things, but unfortunately that’s the way it is.”
Funeral for Landeros is 11 a.m. Monday at Hawkins Funeral Home Chapel in Bridgeport with burial at Chico Cemetery. Family visitation is 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.