A fire at the New Light Road Sprint Mart injured two Mississippi Department of Transportation mowing crew workers Monday.
A MDOT tractor collided with a fuel pump about 8 a.m. Not knowing the impact cut the fuel lines, Starkville Fire Marshal Mark McCurdy said the MDOT employee backed up the machine and continued his attempt to fuel the tractor.
Static electricity produced when the worker touched the fuel nozzle ignited a large fireball, McCurdy said.
The employee was significantly burned, McCurdy said, and a second MDOT worker was also injured in the blaze. The first employee was airlifted to Jackson, a MDOT press release states, while the second worker received treatment locally.
The awning above the pump was also severely damaged, but the store itself reopened after the incident.
Safety elements and quick actions by both the injured worker, bystanders and the gas station manager prevented the accident from escalating, McCurdy said.
“The gas pumps worked like they’re supposed to. There’s an automatic shut-off valve that closed, which kept additional fuel (from underground reservoirs) from being fed to the fire,” he said. “You can see (from surveillance footage) the victim didn’t run. As soon as he realized what was happening, he stopped, dropped and rolled, and put himself out almost completely. A bystander also came by with a fire extinguisher, and the store manager reacted quickly by hitting the emergency shut-off button that controls the other pumps.
“Even though it was really bad, with someone getting hurt like that, it could have been a lot worse,” McCurdy added. “All of the safety features worked, and that’s what prevented it from being a much bigger fire.”
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch