Driver Hurt in Tanker Blast at Santa Rosa Medical Offices

SANTA ROSA (AP) — An explosion involving a tanker truck delivering liquid oxygen to a California medical facility Wednesday prompted staff to evacuate patients on gurneys and wheelchairs, authorities said.

No patients or medical employees were injured in the blast around 2:30 p.m. that 911 callers said caused buildings to shake at the Kaiser Permanente outpatient facility in Santa Rosa, according to spokesman Joe Fragola.

The truck’s driver was hospitalized with unknown injuries, the Press Democrat reported.

“It sounded like the start of an earthquake,” Kaiser employee Jenna Ausiello told the newspaper. “That’s what I thought was happening. The windows shook … it was just a big boom.”

Hazardous materials crews responded after the Matheson tanker truck began to leak cryogenic liquid oxygen, Santa Rosa fire officials said. Matheson is an industrial and medical gas supplier.

Initial emergency dispatch reports indicated that the truck had crashed into a building at the medical complex. Authorities said later that there was no crash and the incident is considered an industrial accident.

Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal said something apparently went wrong with the connection as the truck’s tank was delivering oxygen to an on-site tank at the offices.

Most of the truck seemed undamaged. But the back of it appeared to be burned black and some metal parts near the back appeared to be twisted.

Two medical office buildings were evacuated, one of which contained an outpatient surgery center. Buses and ambulances were sent to evacuate employees and patients, some of whom were in wheelchairs and on stretchers.

Northbound and southbound lanes of U.S. 101, which runs nearby, were closed for about an hour as a precaution.

It was not immediately clear if a brush fire at the scene was related to the explosion. It was extinguished by one of the first arriving fire engines, Assista Lowenthal said.

The clinic is a few blocks from Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of San Francisco.

The offices will be open as usual Thursday, Fragola said.