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Nation in brief: Blasts, fires kill 4 at chemical plant

A column of smoke rises from the site of T2 Laboratories Inc.  in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday. Associated Press
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
A column of smoke rises from the site of T2 Laboratories Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday. Associated Press (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

Explosions and fires at a chemical plant Wednesday killed four people, injured at least 14 and sent debris flying several stories into the air, fire officials and witnesses said.

It was not clear what caused the explosions about 1:30 p.m. at the T2 Laboratories Inc. plant, which makes chemical solvents and fuel additives, said Tom Francis, a fire rescue spokesman.

The chemicals at the plant made the environment “incredibly dangerous for the first responders,” Francis said. “Explosions were generating all kinds of side brush fires and other kinds of blazes.”

Everyone at the plant was accounted for by Wednesday evening.

Fire officials initially ordered a precautionary evacuation within a half-mile of the plant. But the order was rescinded just after 4 p.m. when firefighters determined that the level of toxicity in the air was no greater than an average house fire, Francis said.


Train kills mother of astronaut

The 90-year-old mother of a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station died Wednesday when a train struck her vehicle, police said.

A preliminary investigation showed that Rose Tani, the mother of astronaut Daniel M. Tani, stopped behind a school bus pausing at a train crossing, Raymond Byrne, police chief in this Chicago suburb, said in a statement.

She drove around the bus, bypassing the lowered crossing gate, he said.

The train struck Tani’s vehicle on the passenger side and pushed it down the tracks before stopping.

Paramedics took Tani to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

“All indications are that the crossing gates and warning signals were functioning properly at the time of the accident,” Byrne said.

Daniel Tani, 46, has made several journeys into space. He was a flight engineer on the space shuttle Discovery when it took off on Oct. 23 and was scheduled to remain on the space station until Jan. 8.


Kucinich’s brother found dead at home

The youngest brother of Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich was found dead at his home Wednesday.

Perry Kucinich, 52, was found face down by another brother, Larry, at about 9 a.m., said Powell Caesar, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office.

There were no signs of foul play, Caesar said. An autopsy was being performed Wednesday.

Larry Kucinich had taken his brother shopping Tuesday and then took him home but couldn’t get an answer when he tried calling him Wednesday, Caesar said.

He told officers his brother had a history of mental illness and had stopped taking his medication, according to a police report.

Dennis Kucinich took a flight from Washington, D.C., to Cleveland after learning of the death, said his office press secretary, Natalie Laber.

“He was very close to Perry, and he’s taking this very hard,” Laber said.


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