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Driver burned in foundry blast dies

SEATTLE – The driver of a propane tanker truck who was severely burned in a series of explosions at a Tacoma foundry has died, a hospital spokeswoman said Sunday.

Chuck McDonald, a driver for IXL Transportation Services, suffered burns over 75 percent of his body Oct. 6 when a massive fireball erupted while he was making a routine delivery to Atlas Castings & Technology.

McDonald, 64, died Sunday morning at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hanson said.

Security video from the foundry showed him struggling to connect a hose to a tank, then a cloud of gas before his 8,000-gallon tanker truck exploded.

He survived for about a week but hadn’t communicated with his wife, daughter or son during that time. An attorney for the family had said he was medically paralyzed and breathing only with the aid of a respirator, the News Tribune of Tacoma reported.

Fire officials have said the hose or connection between McDonald’s truck and the larger, stationary tanks suffered a “catastrophic failure” and the escaping gas was apparently ignited by a furnace inside the nearby foundry.

Three men suffered minor injuries. About 32 people were working at the foundry at the time of the explosions.

An electrical substation was destroyed, knocking out power temporarily to about 13,000 homes and businesses served by Tacoma Power.

On Saturday, officials removed the remaining gas from two stationary tanks on the site. After an investigation into the cause of the blast is finished, they will be removed and cut up.

The Atlas foundry dates back to 1899, when the company made iron castings for the Northwest logging industry. The company still produces castings, but now supplies a variety of industries from shipbuilding to offshore oil drilling.