Nine injured in explosion, chemical spill at Rolls Royce plant

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Nine workers were injured at the Rolls Royce plant in Indianapolis Friday afternoon after an explosion and chemical spill.

It happened at around 1:30 pm at Rolls Royce's plant 5 in the 2300 block of S. Tibbs Ave., prompting an evacuation. Second shift was canceled.

The explosion created a cloud of caustic and potentially deadly nitric acid. Eight workers were taken to local hospitals for nitric acid exposure. Seven were transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital and one worker was taken to Eskenazi Hospital. A ninth worker was evaluated and treated at the scene.

Those workers had all been released from the hospital Friday night. 

Emergency crews at the scene say the incident is now under control.

"We do believe it was the acid as a result of the inhalation and potential issues that happen with the acid," said Capt. Mike Pruitt, Wayne Township Fire Department.

The accident occurred on the manufacturing shop floor of plant 5. It's one of several plants in the sprawling Rolls Royce facility were jet engines are engineered, built and tested.

"We got a report of a nitric acid spill that resulted in an explosion," said Capt. Pruitt.

According to initial reports, the spill occurred while workers were transferring the acid to a 250-gallon storage tank. The liquid apparently mixed with another substance, setting off the explosion.

About 500 employees evacuated the facility as firefighters contained the spill and cleared the building of dangerous fumes.

"There is no concern for any exposure outside the plant to the general public. That's the good news," said Capt. Pruitt.

Nitric acid vapor can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and skin, and high concentrations can cause burns and breathing difficulties.

Rolls Royce says an investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the acid escape.

The Marion County Health Department has been requested at the scene.

Rolls-Royce has research facilities and an aircraft engine factory in Indianapolis.