An Oct. 9 fire at a Dow Chemical electronic materials facility in North Andover, Mass., resulted in the death of production operator Carlos A. Amaral, 51. The cause of the fire was exposure of trimethylindium to air, according to a press release issued by the Massachusetts state fire marshal. Trimethylindium, used to make semiconductors, ignites spontaneously in air.
Amaral died from injuries sustained in the fire. He may have been working alone in the lab where it occurred, said North Andover Fire Department Chief Andrew V. Melnikas. “No one knows exactly what happened,” he added.
The fire was put out by a building fire suppression system. No other employees were injured, Dow said in a statement. The company is investigating the incident.
The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration is also investigating the fire, said Jeffrey A. Erskine, director of the agency’s North Boston area office. The Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board is unlikely to investigate, said CSB Managing Director Daniel M. Horowitz. At the time of the incident, CSB investigators were furloughed because of the federal government shutdown.
Amaral was born in Angola and lived in Portugal before moving to the U.S. in 1979, according to his obituary. He had worked at the Dow site for more than a decade.
“He was truly a highly valued member of our team and a role model for his coworkers,” said Julie Thyne, manufacturing leader for the Dow site, in a company statement.