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Conair Hair- Care Plant Fire and Explosions Kills Woman

June 10, 2005

Rantoul, Ill. (AP) -- Alcohol that was used in manufacturing hair-care products fed a plant fire that killed one person and injured another, officials said.

Firefighters reported at least six explosions after arriving at the Conair Corp. plant in this central Illinois city on Wednesday night. Authorities were investigating the cause of the fire.

The first explosion occurred in a room where a form of alcohol is mixed with other raw materials to make hair-care products, company spokeswoman Stephanie Burris said. The victim was found near where the explosion took place.

The victim was identified as Erna Uden, 52, of Rankin, Ill.

The other 57 workers were safely evacuated, Burris said. One worker was treated for minor injuries at the scene.

Worker Mike Eskew said he heard the first of two quick explosions in the room next to the one where he was working.

''I thought it was thunder, and then it happened again.'' Eskew said. ''By the time I knew it wasn't thunder and it was in the building, I saw flames, and then the alarm went off.''

Conair, with offices in Stamford, Conn., and East Windsor, N.J., employs 240 people at the plant in Rantoul, Mayor Neal Williams said.

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