Three office workers are lucky to be alive after part of an exploded gas cylinder shot through their window and narrowly missed hitting them in what has been described as a “freak accident” in Newtownabbey yesterday.
The colleagues at mechanical and electrical company William Coates were working away at 8.55am yesterday when they heard a loud bang.
Seconds later, a cast-iron cylinder, part of which flew more than 150 yards across from a nearby recycling plant, passed through a metal grid and double glazing, and ricocheted off a desk, missing a man’s head by a foot, before bouncing off a wall and finally landing on the office floor.
A mechanical digger had crushed an oxygen cylinder while carrying out work at T-Met recycling company, and the segment was launched into the air.
The six office workers were forced to crawl out of the office on their knees for fear the cylinder part would explode further.
One 34-year-old woman sustained cuts to her shoulder, back and knees and was taken to the Mater Hospital alongside another man, aged in his 50s.
Another man, aged in his mid-40s, was treated for cuts to his eye and chest by an ambulance crew that arrived on site shortly after the incident.
Ryan Scott, health and safety advisor for William Coates, was one of the six in the office when the cylinder hit.
“We heard a loud bang and at first thought it could have been a pipe bomb or something like that,” said Mr Scott, 34.
“About three seconds later the cylinder came through the window and there looked to be smoke coming out of it and the next thing there was dust and glass everywhere.”
Mr Scott said the fire officers and ambulance workers on the scene said if the cylinder had hit anyone in the head it could have killed them.
Asked how he and the others felt after the incident Mr Scott told the News Letter they were all in shock.
“I suppose I am shellshocked,” he said. “I haven’t had time to think about what actually happened.
“It’s just not something you expect when you come to work in an office on a Tuesday morning.
“It is something we will look back on and think how lucky we are.”
When contacted by the News Letter a manager at T-Met said no-one would be making a comment on the incident.
Earlier yesterday morning police described those injured as “the walking wounded”, adding that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is now the lead investigator.
A spokesman for the HSE said: “We are aware of the incident and are currently investigating.”