WILMINGTON — One person died in the incident Sunday at the Wilmington Air Park in which an automatic fire suppression system deployed a huge mass of foam just before 2 p.m.
Tim Law, 55, an employee of Airborne Maintenance & Engineering Services (AMES) where he was a production supervisor in the Heavy Maintenance Department, died in the incident. He was an employee there for one and a half years.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office began investigating the incident Sunday afternoon. Clinton County Public Information Officer Pam Bauer said at a Monday morning news conference at the air park that investigators did not know what triggered the release of the foam.
“We do know it was not a fire, but we do not know what triggered that release,” said Bauer.
At 1:44 p.m. Sunday, Wilmington Fire & EMS was dispatched and was advised that people were trapped in a vehicle near the entrance of hangar #1006 and that one person was unaccounted for who was from an office located inside the hangar.
The Wilmington Fire Department arrived at 1:56 p.m. and began an initial search but had to vacate due to unsafe conditions, Bauer said. Mutual aid from surrounding agencies began to arrive which enabled search operations to continue, she said.
During response operations, two separate responder “MAYDAYS” were issued, reported Bauer.
The News Journal on Sunday reported that a firefighter (department not known) was trapped in the hangar and in the foam, but another firefighter said he was “OK” shortly before he was brought out on a stretcher — conscious and alert — and transported to the hospital by the Clinton Highland Fire District.
Eight first responders were transported to Clinton Memorial Hospital for medical care due to eye injury, electrocution and other physical injuries, with three transferred to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. All eight were released, with follow-up appointments scheduled for Monday, according to Bauer.
The eight firefighters transported for medical treatment are from the following departments or districts: four with Wilmington Fire & EMS, two with SRWW (Sabina), one with Clinton Highland Joint Fire District (New Vienna), and one with the Clinton-Warren Joint Fire District (Clarksville).
The two individuals in the vehicle near the hangar entrance were rescued, Bauer said. The person originally unaccounted for was Law, she said.
Bauer said the eye injuries that occurred to first responders were related to the foam.
Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) President and CEO Rich Corrado also spoke at the news conference. ATSG is the parent company of AMES.
He started by sharing the deepest condolences of ATSG workforce colleagues to the Tim Law Family.
He also thanked all first responders, AMES employees and Logistics employees who responded Sunday, and the people of the Wilmington area and surrounding areas for their support.
ATSG has been fully cooperating with the state fire marshal’s investigation which began Sunday afternoon “and will continue as long as it is needed,” said Corrado.
“All ATSG companies are focused on safety and reliability throughout our network. Safety and training are part of our culture, and incidents such as what happened in hangar 1006 yesterday [Sunday] validate that focus,” he said.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office on Monday afternoon said it is working in conjunction with federal, state, county and local agencies to investigate the incident at the Wilmington Air Park. Investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Code Enforcement and Fire & Explosion Investigation bureaus are on the scene as part of this ongoing investigation, the State Fire Marshal’s Office added.
They had no further investigation details to share at this time after noting the fatality and the number of injuries, but stated they will provide updates as more information becomes available.
Hangar 1006, where the incident occurred, has sometimes been referred to as the Joint Use Maintenance and Paint (J.U.M.P.) hangar. It opened in June 2014 following a new construction project.
Lt. Richard Birt of Wilmington Fire and EMS was the incident commander.
Dozens of first responders and many fire departments or districts responded Sunday. The firefighters were from Wilmington, SRWW, Clinton Highland, Blanchester-Marion Township Fire, Blanchester EMS, Chester Township, Clinton-Warren, Port William-Liberty Township, Washington Court House, Paint Creek, Lynchburg, and Salem Township-Morrow.
Others responding were the Wilmington Police Department, Clinton County EMA, Highland County EMA, Red Cross, Clinton County Coroner’s Office, and the Ohio EPA.
At about 5 p.m. Sunday the call was put out for all firefighters to exit the hangar so foam could be blown and sprayed outside, according to police scanner traffic.