One Killed, One Injured in Lab Explosion

Willow Road tech lab conducts research on petrochemicals.

A methane explosion in a Willow Road laboratory in Menlo Park has killed one worker and injured another.

Scientist Adrian Martin, 56, of San Jose was transferring methane, helium, and nitrogen into one container at Membrane Technology and Research Inc. shortly after 4 p.m. when the blast occurred.

Co-workers dragged Martin out of the lab into a hallway. He later suffered a cardiac arrest and failed to respond to CPR by paramedics.

Fourteen fire engines responded to the call with , Foster City, San Carlos, and Woodside fire departments providing back-up.

Membrane Technology and Research Inc. conducts research on petrochemicals and has performed the operation previously without incident, said Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

What caused the blast, "whether it was from overpressure or not, will be part of our investigation," said he said.

A female co-worker standing near the door of the lab was thrown clear and survived with injury to an eardrum. She was taken to Stanford Hospital, where she remains in "moderate" condition.

“The other employees were the ones that rushed in the laboratory at some risk to themselves, secured the cylinders, pulled the victim out into the corridor," Schapelhouman said. "They deserve a lot of credit for that."

While two of the cylinders shut off, the methane container continued leaking. At 8 p.m. members of a hazmat team were still on the scene, running rapid air movement (RAM) fans to speed the dissipation of methane gas.

Schapelhouman said the blast and its aftermath pose no safety risk to residents in the surrounding communities.

The staffers were "obviously very shocked and stunned" by the man's death, he said. "It’s very tragic."

-- Bay City News contributed to this report.


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