TCEQ investigating deadly explosion, evacuated residents speak out

TCEQ investigating deadly explosion, evacuated residents speak out

MIDLAND COUNTY, TX (KWES) - A 23-year-old worker was killed Monday morning in a fiery explosion at a Water Rescue Services facility in the 2500 block of North County Road 1140, officials said.

The victim was later identified as Water Rescue Services employee Julian Gallardo, according to the Midland County Sheriff's Office.

"[Gallardo's] family has been notified," Sheriff Gary Painter said Monday evening in a news release. "Preliminary investigation revealed chemicals were being mixed together and a spark ignited the chemicals, causing the explosion."

Officials were unable to confirm the specific chemicals involved in the deadly accident.

A Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) spokesperson, Andrea Morrow, said regional TCEQ crews were sent to the scene and are conducting an ongoing investigation.

"[Midland County officials] reported no evidence of a spill to the environment," she added.

Water Rescue Services representatives did not return calls from NewsWest 9 for comment.

Authorities from the Midland County Fire Marshal's Office, Sheriff's Office and the Midland Fire Department rushed to the scene around 10:30 a.m. and found "a structure... completely engulfed in flames," Sheriff Painter said.

Firefighters from the Greenwood and Northeast Volunteer Fire Departments assisted in extinguishing the blaze.

No additional fatalities or injuries were reported, officials confirmed.

However, an unknown number of residents in a neighboring RV park were evacuated for hours and "several" mobile homes were damaged beyond repair, according to Fire Marshal Dale Little.

Evacuee Becky Yarbrough said she witnessed the immediate aftermath of the explosion and "couldn't believe" the incident occurred "right in [her] backyard."

"I was terrified," she told NewsWest 9. "I looked out my back door and there was smoke going everywhere... I just started hollering at [my daughter and granddaughter,] 'Get the baby, get in the car and let's get out of here!'"

Yarbrough said her family was not allowed to return home for nearly four hours.

"We're just so grateful our home wasn't destroyed," she said. "I've lived here for four [or] five years and nothing like this has ever happened before."

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