An explosion rocked a New Windsor cosmetics factory Monday, killing one person and injuring more than 30 employees.
The explosion triggered a three-alarm fire at 10:19 a.m. at the Verla Cosmetics Factory at 463 Temple Hill Road in New Windsor. It filled the air with black smoke and sent employees of the 52,000 square foot facility out into the parking lot. A second explosion was reported as firefighters were entering the building.
The presence of black smoke, believed to be potentially hazardous, prompted the Orange County office of Emergency Management to establish an Emergency Operations Center and directed residents to stay indoors and keep their windows closed. The Shelter-in-Place directive affected students at Heritage Middle School, Temple Hill Elementary School, Vails Gate Elementary School and the Union Avenue Y.
The OCEM office posted a notice on its Facebook page advising that all schools listed had been requested to keep students indoors and that there would be no early dismissals.
“There is no additional threat to the public or these school at this time,” the OCEM office posted, adding that it was in contact with the school district. The shelter-in-place directive was lifted at 1:30 p.m., but emergency personnel were on the same past nightfall.
“Every day, brave first responders put their lives on the line to help others in our community. Today was no different at the explosion and subsequent fire at the Verla International Cosmetic factory in New Windsor. I am receiving briefings from the Governor’s Office and continue to closely monitor the situation,” said Assemblyman James Skoufis in a prepared statement. “I have been informed that both the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health are on scene to evaluate the situation and any dangers that it may present to the public. My thoughts and prayers are with the employees and firefighters injured in today’s accident and will be working closely with town and emergency officials to ensure the public’s health remains a top priority.”
More than 120 firefighters from 30 departments responded to the scene, including crews from Vails Gate, City of Newburgh, Cornwall-on-Hudson, New Windsor, Goodwill, Coldenham, Middle Hope, Winona Lake, Mobil Life, Air National Guard FD, Campbell Hall, Goshen, Walden, Chester, Milton, Plattekill, and Wallkill. Tankers were also summoned from Dutchess County as well. Fire crews from Bullville, Montgomery were put on standby at the Vails Gate Station.
In addition, a landing zone was set up at the Temple Hill Academy, with helicopters circling overhead if needed. The fire had been declared a mass casualty incident. In all, some 40 people, including seven firefighters were injured. The one fatality was later identified as William Huntington, 57, of Newburgh, a Verla employee.
The cause of the fire had not been determined as of Monday night.
According to the company’ website, Verla International is a leading private label manufacturer and contract packaging & filling company with more than 40 lines for nail polish, 40 lines for color cosmetics, personal care, creams, lotions, fragrances and perfumes providing quality service since 1980. It had reportedly been cited for health and safety violations and for violations of workplace conditions.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said and investigation into Verla International will be led by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Labor and the Department of State.
“Ensuring the safety and welfare of New Yorkers in the workplace is critically important, and 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,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Worker safety and environmental protection are top priorities and if there was any misconduct or negligence that led to this incident, we will use the full force of the law to hold the company accountable.”