Missing man presumed dead after Cresson plant explosion

- Crews have resumed the search for a worker who went missing and presumed dead following an explosion at a Hood County chemical plant on Thursday that injured two co-workers.

DPS Sgt. Earl Gillum says recovery crews are using heavy equipment Friday to clear burned debris at the Tri-Chem Industries plant in Cresson, 50 miles southwest of Dallas.

The search resumed Friday for the third worker who Gillum has said is presumed dead. Dylan Mitchell, 27, is believed to be in the most heavily damaged part of the facility. The fire chief says they can still hear chemicals sizzling as crews do their work.

Members of Mitchell's family have been coming and going from the plant for any word on the search him.

"I'm just trying to be as strong as I can for my parents and my sister and help them because my parents, my dad always looked at it like a father's never supposed to bury a child," said Austin Mitchell, Dylan's brother. "That's what he's having to do. I'd say he's taking it the hardest."

Firefighters know where to look. They just haven't been able to get there because of a collapsed room and dangerous chemicals. Crews began moving some of the debris from the collapsed back half of the building in their search. They already knew he wasn't in the front that didn't collapse.

"They made six different search attempts using three different fire teams without any success in that part of the building,” explained Hood County Fire Marshall Ray Wilson.

Immediately after the explosion, Mitchell's family knew he was the only worker in the plant who hadn't made it out. Firefighters tried to make a rescue.

"I put some of our firefighters in a fairly dangerous position for a little while to try to effect a rescue.” Said Cresson Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ron Becker.

Workers who made it out told firefighters that Mitchell was likely just inside a door on the east side of the plant.

“The Cresson crews advanced the line, flowed a lot of water through that door. A lot of fire coming out of that door as they continued to knock the fire back in the door,” Becker explained. “We started to get secondary explosions inside the building."

Investigators believe a worker dragging his foot along the floor while chemicals were being mixed sparked Thursday's explosion. That worker is hospitalized with critical burns. Another worker was treated for less severe injuries.

Firefighters used a drone to map out the plant from above and to keep an eye on fires that still burned under the collapsed metal roof.

Wilson says the plant blends and mixes acids and other chemicals. Even in the aftermath, it's been a dangerous situation for rescue crews.

"There is a lot of liquid on the floor,” Becker said. “We didn't put that much water. So that liquid is some of the chemicals that were being used in this facility."

The Hood County fire marshal says they need even heavier equipment to lift off more of the collapsed roof.

Mitchell's family has been waiting for more than 24 hours for some kind of closure.

"We knew it's a semi-dangerous job with the stuff he's working with," Austin said. "But we just kind of believed in him and his experience that he knows what he's doing."

Gillum says experts determined there are no air quality issues but the site remains dangerous because of the hazardous industrial chemicals.

The search will resume on Saturday.

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