MENLO PARK (KCBS) – Fire officials are investigating an explosion in a Menlo Park laboratory that killed one worker and injured another, fire officials said Friday.

The explosion at 1360 Willow Road was reported at 4:07 p.m. at Membrane Technology and Research Inc.

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said a scientist at the research and development company was preparing a pre-gas mixture involving methane, helium, and nitrogen in a lab at the time of the explosion.

A woman standing near the door of the lab was thrown clear and survived with damage to her eardrum.

The scientist preparing the mixture was seriously injured. He was recovered from the lab, but the he later suffered cardiac arrest and died at the scene, Schapelhouman said.

Schapelhouman said that fire officials found a leaking methane cylinder in the lab, although it was not clear if the cylinder was leaking before the explosion or if it was caused by the blast.

Firefighters are ventilating the building tonight, allowing the cylinder to dispel all of its contents before starting a secondary search and the investigative process, Schapelhouman said.

“We need to make it safe and we’re in the process of doing that,” he said.

More than 20 employees were evacuated from the business, and a hazardous materials team responded to ensure that the area was safe.

Schapelhouman said there is no risk to residents in the surrounding communities of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.

Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said two workers at Membrane Technology and Research were transferring methane gas between canisters when the blast occurred just after 4 p.m.

All 25 employees were evacuated from the facility at 1360 Willow Road.

The man who was killed survived the blast only to succumb to his injuries as first responders administered CPR in the parking lot.

Neither victims’ name has been released.

Schapelhouman said a San Mateo County hazmat team called to the scene did not believe the canisters posed any additional risk to the area near Bayfront Expressway.

Police briefly closed Willow Road, a major access route for the Dumbarton Bridge. It has since been reopened.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (4)
  1. ron says:

    Leaking methane gas….a little spark…boom.

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