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Saturday, September 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Zodiac Aerospace workers return to work after July explosion

The Newport, Washington, aerospace production plant that closed after an explosion last month is now open.

The explosion on July 14 sent five employees of Zodiac Aerospace to the hospital. Employees returned to work the week of Aug. 3, except for a few who were “still recovering from injuries,” the company said in a news release.

Newport City Administrator Ray King said the 104 plant employees were paid throughout the closure.

“I talked to a few employees and they seemed like pretty happy campers,” he said. “They (Zodiac) are really dedicated to getting the employees back to work.”

The Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release on July 15 the explosion started at a Pre-Preg Treater machine, which creates carbon fiber and other composite materials used in the interior of airplanes. Zodiac Aerospace hasn’t released an official cause of the explosion. Local authorities are not investigating. Zodiac is running an internal investigation.

The Washington state Department of Labor and Industries also is investigating the accident, according to spokeswoman Elaine Fischer.

The Newport plant has been investigated six times since 2004. Fischer said the company has a good safety record and the investigations were mostly for nonserious violations.

In 2013, however, the company had five serious violations and three general violations, Fischer said. Zodiac was fined $8,050. The serious violations all had to do with machine guarding. A follow-up investigation conducted in October found no violations.

The investigation into the July explosion is ongoing, Fischer said. Although she doesn’t know when the investigation will conclude, she said it won’t take more than six months.

The Newport plant is part of Zodiac Aerospace’s cabin and structures division, and produces the plastics and other composite material used in the production of airplane cabin interiors.

Zodiac Aerospace is a multinational corporation headquartered in France and a key supplier to Boeing and Airbus. It has seven subsidiaries in Washington.

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