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One Dead, One Hurt in Ill. Plant Fire

June 9, 2005

RANTOUL, Ill. (AP) _ Alcohol used in manufacturing hair-care products fed a plant fire that killed one person and injured another, officials said.

Firefighters reported at least six explosions after arriving at the Conair Corp. plant in this central Illinois city on Wednesday night. Authorities were investigating the cause of the fire Thursday.

The first explosion occurred in a room where a form of alcohol is mixed with other raw materials to make hair care products, company spokeswoman Stephanie Burris said. The victim, a woman, was found near when the explosion took place.

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said he expected to positively identify the victim after an autopsy Thursday.

The other 57 workers were safely evacuated, Burris said. One worker was treated for minor injuries at the scene.

Worker Mike Eskew said he heard the first of two quick explosions in the room next to the one where he was working.

``I thought it was thunder, and then it happened again.″ Eskew said. ``By the time I knew it wasn’t thunder and it was in the building, I saw flames, and then the alarm went off.″

Conair, with offices in Stamford, Conn., and East Windsor, N.J., employs 240 people at the plant in Rantoul, Mayor Neal Williams said.


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