Body of worker recovered after cosmetics factory blasts, fire

Firefighters work at the scene of of a fire Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, at the Verla International cosmetics factory on Temple Hill Road in New Windsor, N.Y. Authorities say two explosions and a fire at the cosmetics factory in the Hudson Valley have left numerous people injured, including firefighters caught in the second blast. (Jerry Barao via AP)

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. (AP/NEWS10) — Authorities recovered the body of a male worker reported missing after two explosions and a fire at a New York cosmetics factory left 30 to 35 people injured, including seven firefighters caught in the second blast, officials said Monday.

“A deceased male employee was recovered from the plant fire at approximately 7:40 p.m.,” Orange County spokesman Justin Rodriguez said in a statement Monday night. He gave no additional details.

Police said the first explosion occurred around 10:15 a.m. Monday at the Verla International cosmetics factory in New Windsor, about an hour’s drive from New York City. Firefighters who responded were inside when the second explosion occurred around 10:40 a.m.

“We do have a job to do as firefighters, so our firefighters do enter the building,” Fire Coordinator Vinnie Tankasali said.

Up to 35 people were being treated for injuries, including seven firefighters, most of them from the nearby city of Newburgh, Town Supervisor George Green said. Two of the firefighters were taken to the burn unit at Westchester Medical Center, he said. None of the injuries appear to be life threatening.

There was no word on a cause of the blaze, which fire crews and hazardous materials teams were battling into late Monday afternoon.

Twelve hours after the explosions there was still smoke in the air and crews on the scene. It is a sprawling facility, which includes manufacturing and warehouse buildings

Workers who were inside at the time said it was truly terrifying. Carlos was one of them.

“It’s scary; it’s very, very scary,” he said.

Carlos moved to New York from Honduras. He said like most workers at Verla, English is his second language. But he was still able to explain what it was like inside.

“It’s crazy; people running,” he said. “It’s too much. It’s too much.”

There is no indication as to what caused the explosions.

Verla was cited for nine occupational safety violations earlier this year, according to records on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website. One was related to problems with the handling of flammable and combustible liquids.

The federal agency also cited inadequacies relating to respirator protection for workers and the maintenance of exit routes. The company agreed to pay $41,000 in penalties.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state emergency response teams have been sent to the factory. State personnel dispatched included homeland security staffers, state police, environmental conservation enforcement officers and health department technicians, the Democratic governor said. The state also will investigate working conditions and regulatory compliance at the plant.

“Following today’s chemical explosion, I am directing a multi-agency investigation to get to the bottom of what happened and review compliance with state labor and environmental laws,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, workers like Carlos remain in disbelief.

“It’s bad,” he said. “It’s bad.”

The factory is about a half-mile from the town hall and police station in New Windsor, on the Hudson River’s west bank, 55 miles (88 kilometers) north of New York City. The 37-year-old New Windsor-based company’s website says the products it makes include nail polish, perfumes, lotions and other products.

Neighboring businesses were evacuated as a precaution in case there were any toxins in the air; however, officials do not believe that is a threat at this time.

Verla’s phone number wasn’t working Monday, according to the Associated Press. An email sent to the company by the AP wasn’t answered.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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