- Department of Fire Services
Media Contact for Hazmat Teams Conclude Mission at Newburyport Industrial Site
NEWBURYPORT — State Hazmat technicians today concluded their mission at the scene of yesterday’s fatal explosion and fire in Newburyport, removing potential hazards from the badly damaged building after more than a day of painstaking work.
The Newburyport Fire Department responded to the area of 9 Opportunity Way following multiple notifications at about 12:39 am on April 4. On arrival, they observed heavy fire and a large debris field from an explosion within the structure. Four employees were transported to an area hospital and later released.
Tragically, a fifth employee suffered fatal injuries. State Police fire investigators recovered him from the building and the Essex County District Attorney’s office identified him as 62-year-old Jack O’Keefe. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of his death.
Firefighters battled the fire for about an hour before bringing it under control, but the site presented numerous challenges to first responders even after the fire was extinguished. The structure was badly damaged by the explosion, making it unsafe to enter at first, and substances used on the premises were reactive and potentially hazardous. The Northeast Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team and heavy equipment were necessary to make the structure safe for investigators to enter.
In the days that followed, Hazmat techs monitored the area continually for potential dangers to first responders or the community. Taking all appropriate safety precautions, they extracted dozens of drums of reactive chemicals from the site for transport or appropriate disposal. They concluded their mission late this afternoon.
The incident ultimately went to seven alarms, drawing mutual aid from the fire departments of Amesbury, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Ipswich, Newbury, North Andover, North Reading, Salisbury, Rowley, Westborough, West Newbury, East Kingston, NH, Exeter, NH, Hampton, NH, North Hampton, NH, Salem, NH, and Seabrook, NH. The fire departments of Danvers, Lawrence, and Topsfield provided station coverage. The Department of Fire Services deployed an Incident Support Unit to assist incident commanders with audio, video, communications, and conferencing capabilities; two Rehab units to support firefighter health at the scene; and a drone unit to provide aerial and interior imagery of the site.
While the explosion appears related to a chemical manufacturing process and does not appear suspicious, the exact cause remains under investigation by the Newburyport Fire Department, State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office, and State Police assigned to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.