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author

Quentin Baker
Robert Gombar
James Lastowka
Michael Polcyn

published on

April 2005

An explosion occurred at the West Pharmaceutical Services plant in Kinston, NC, on January 29, 2003. The facility manufactured rubber parts for pharmaceutical delivery devices. The explosion occurred in the rubber compounding section of the plant, which suffered extensive damage. There were six fatalities and a number of injuries. The incident received national attention and was the subject of concurrent investigations by West Pharmaceutical Services, numerous federal and state government agencies, and dozens of third parties.

In-depth investigation by West Pharmaceutical revealed that the explosion involved polyethylene dust. Unlike most dust explosions, no residual dust accumulations were found. The investigation posed major technical challenges in light of the extensive damage to the facility and injuries to key witnesses. Investigation challenges were also presented by the large number of parties conducting investigations, combined with initial concerns about a possible airplane crash or terrorist incident. The paper will focus on the investigation challenges including investigation methodology, interpretation of data, management of the investigation site, and management of information and evidence requests.

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Quentin Baker

Robert Gombar

James Lastowka

Michael Polcyn