Cause sought in water tank explosion

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 15, 2004

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of anexplosion Thursday in Barlow that left two Baton Rouge men inserious condition at the Firefighters Memorial Burn Center inGreenville.

Mozelle Gatlin, 54, and Mark Aven Wilkins, 40, were both badlyburned during an explosion around 4 p.m. while painting a CopiahCounty Water Association water tank on Barlow Road. The waterassociation had contracted their employer, Diamond Enterprises ofGloster, to paint the water tank.

Both men were listed in serious condition at the burn centerFriday with burns over most of their bodies, said Copiah CountySheriff’s Department Chief Investigator Milton Twiner.

Gatlin was painting inside the tank while Wilkins was paintingthe outside of the tank, Twiner said.

“Something caused a spark somewhere and it caused a lightexplosion that caught them both on fire,” he said.

Twiner said he and a state fire marshal returned to the sceneFriday, but were unavailable to determine a cause with anycertainty.

“It’s hard to say what could have caused it,” he said. “It couldeven have been static electricity if the weather conditions wereright.”

One thing they do know for sure, he said, is that the incidentwas accidental.

One of the most common causes of fires, smoking, has beeneliminated as a cause, Twiner said. Although one of the men doessmoke, his cigarettes and a lighter were found in the companytruck.