Worker dies in Olin plant explosion in East Alton

Tragically not the first violation at this plant

Illinois Correspondent

THE OLIN/WINCHESTER facility in East Alton

East Alton, IL – Oscar “Zeke”  Bettorf, a member of Teamsters Local 525, was killed in an explosion at the Olin/Winchester facility last week.

Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn said Bettorf, 60, of Bunker Hill, was killed June 22 when a semi-truck with a trailer loaded with shotgun shell primers exploded while being transported within the Olin property.

The explosion occurred at approximately 4 p.m. at the plant on Powder Mill Road. Social media immediately flooded with reactions, as the impact of the blast was apparently sufficient to shake houses for some distance away from the plant.

Bettorf was pronounced dead at the scene. A preliminary autopsy indicated he suffered blunt trauma to the head, neck, chest and pelvis.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation by Olin Security, East Alton Police, Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigations, Illinois Secretary of State Police Bomb Squad, the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The incident has also been reported to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which lists multiple violations in its database under the U.S. Department of Labor. Many of them were at least a decade ago, but more recently Olin was fined for two serious violations in 2019. The initial penalty was $73,912, which was reduced to $23,097.

The most serious of those violations was tagged “control of hazardous energy” and was a $50,815 fine by itself. The statute indicates that this standard covers the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the unexpected energization or startup of the machines could cause injury to employees, and thus requires minimum standards for control of such energy. That case was closed in 2019.

Olin was also cited in 2015 with 10 violations totaling $64,000, which was settled for $46,500. That also centered on the statute covering control of hazardous energy, as well as standards involving powered industrial trucks and mechanical power presses.

OSHA spokesperson Rhonda Burke confirmed that Olin reported the fatality as required and an investigation is underway. It can take up to six months for OSHA to complete an investigation of a fatal accident, and if violations are found, citations and fines may be issued.

Emails to Olin’s leadership were not immediately returned. However, Olin released a statement that said they were “deeply saddened” at Bettorf’s death. “Our thoughts and prayers are with our employee’s family and coworkers.

“This is a tragedy, and we will conduct a full investigation to determine what happened. The safety of our employees, the community and our environment is always our top priority.”

Funeral arrangements are pending with the Weber-Rodney Funeral Home in Edwardsville.


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