Houston police identify 2 people killed in industrial explosion

HOUSTON — At least two people died and one person was injured after an early-morning explosion Friday at a machine shop in northwest Houston, police said.

KHOU reported residents first felt the blast at Watson Grinding & Manufacturing Co. around 4:30 a.m. Friday.

Update 4:50 a.m. EST Jan. 25: Houston authorities have identified the two people killed in Friday's early-morning explosion as Frank Flores and Gerardo Castorena. Both men were employees at the facility and had arrived early to use the company's on-site gym before starting their workdays, KHOU reported.

According to the TV station, a nearby resident was taken to a local hospital for treatment of unknown injuries, and at least 18 people sought emergency room treatment on their own for minor injuries associated with the blast, such as breathing issues and cuts.

Update 2:30 p.m. EST Jan. 24: Police Chief Art Acevedo said authorities believe they have identified the two people killed in Friday morning's explosion as employees of Watson Grinding.

Authorities declined to identify the victims as they continued to await official confirmation of their identities.

“We only have two people that are accounted for and we have recovered two bodies,” Acevedo said Friday afternoon. “That doesn’t mean that there (isn’t) people that no one knows were in the area, and so we cannot say whether or not there are more victims but right now. It appears (to be) a high probability (that) there’s only two victims.”

Police, firefighters and officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the cause of the blast.

“As of right now, we don’t have any have no indication that there’s any terrorism nexus or any intentional act,” Acevedo said. Earlier Friday, he noted investigations are part of standard procedure when dealing with situations such as Friday’s explosion.

Update 1:55 p.m. EST Jan. 24: Firefighters have cleared the immediate blast area affected by Friday morning's explosion at Watson Grinding.

The owner of Watson Grinding told KTRK the blast was a propylene gas explosion. Houston fire officials said propylene tanks still at the machine shop were intact and stable Friday afternoon.

“There is no indication of any air quality issues,” officials said.

Update 1:10 p.m. EST Jan. 24: Police expect to provide an update on the investigation into Friday morning's explosion at a news conference scheduled to start at 1 p.m. local time Friday.

Update 10:55 a.m. EST Jan. 24: Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters Friday morning that police have confirmed two fatalities connected to the explosion at Watson Grinding.

Acevedo said authorities weren’t immediately sure whether the victims were employees of Watson Grinding or residents who lived nearby. Mayor Sylvester Turner said as many as three people are believed to have died as a result of the early-morning blast.

Police and firefighters have launched an investigation of the incident.

“Let me just say off the bat, we have no reason to believe -- we have no evidence at this point that terrorism was involved, we don’t have any evidence that an intentional act is involved,” Acevedo said, adding that the investigation was part of standard procedure. Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also investigating.

Fire Chief Samuel Peña said there was “significant damage” to homes and businesses in the area.

Authorities continue to investigate.

Update 10:35 a.m. EST Jan 24: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said as many as three people are believed to have died in Friday morning's explosion.

Original report: One person was missing Friday after an early-morning explosion at a machine shop in northwest Houston caused heavy damage to nearby buildings, injuring at least one person and leaving rubble scattered in the area.

"(The explosion) knocked us all out of our bed, it was so strong," resident Mark Brady told KPRC. "It busted out every window in our house. It busted everybody's garage door in around here … and closer toward the explosion over here, it busted people's roofs in and walls in and we don't know what it is … It's a warzone over here."

Police Chief Art Acevedo said Friday morning that one person remained unaccounted for after the incident.

“It’s somebody that works there,” Acevedo said. “We’re keeping that person in our prayers.”

Firefighters said a resident who lives near Watson Grinding was injured in the explosion and taken to a hospital. Houston fire Capt. Oscar Garcia told CNN the person was injured by shattered glass.

At least one local resident captured the incident on a doorbell camera.

The owner of Watson Grinding told KTRK the blast was a propylene gas explosion. Houston fire Chief Samuel Peña said a hazardous materials team was monitoring after the incident but that there were no immediate reports of hazardous air quality.

Acevedo said the debris field extended about half a mile from the site of the explosion.

Check back for updates to this developing story.

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