The incident occurred at approximately 11.10 a.m. at the DeRidder paper mill in Louisiana, during repair work on piping in the pulp mill area.
Paper machine D1
PCA makes corrugated containers, retail packaging and displays, produce packaging and interior packaging for the snacks, confectionery and beverage industry, to name a few.
“All three men who died were contractors who were working in the pulp mill area,” the company said in a statement.
“Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of the people working on our site. The top priorities at this time are the notification of families of the deceased contractors and investigation of the incident with authorities.
“At the time of the incident, the D1 machine was down for its annual outage and the D3 machine was running and continues to operate.
“The current assessment indicates that the annual outage work is expected to be delayed by up to one week and the mill will then resume full operation. Further information will be provided, as appropriate, when it becomes available.”
According to Sgt. James Anderson, Louisiana State Police, welding activity was taking place in the vicinity of the tank that exploded.
The tank contained "foul condensate, which is a by-product of the cooking process."
Authorities are still investigating to see what other chemicals were in the tank.
Six of seven people injured in the accident have been released from the hospital. One person was unaccounted for, but has been found.
Three were transported to Beauregard Memorial Hospital, two to Lake Charles Memorial and two to Rapides Regional Medical Center. One person remains hospitalized at Rapides.
PCA acquired the paper mill in 2013 as part of its $1.27bn acquisition of Boise.
It said at the time, PCA's containerboard capacity will increase to 3.7m tons from its current level of 2.6m tons (a 42% increase) including the announced expansion of paper machine number 2 (D2) at Boise's DeRidder mill.
“The acquisition provides the containerboard that PCA needs to support our strong corrugated products growth,” said Paul Stecko, executive chairman, PCA.
“The DeRidder containerboard mill is low cost, located in a very good wood basket and, after the D2 machine conversion, provides almost one million tons of primarily lightweight containerboard.”