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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Explosion rocks former Juice Bowl facility in Lakeland

A natural gas explosion Tuesday morning at a beverage packing plant in Lakeland sent a 60,000-pound boiler tank flying through a wall but resulted in no injuries, officials said.

The blast at the Whitlock Packaging Corp., 2090 S. Bartow Road (U.S. 98), occurred just before 8 a.m. in a boiler room that contained three 4,000-gallon tanks, which are heated by natural gas to produce steam for power, officials said.

The tank that exploded went through a wall in the building and landed on adjacent train tracks, forcing CSX to shut down rail traffic, the city of Lakeland said. A crane was used to move the tank off the tracks.

No employees were working in the area of the explosion, according to Bart Lewis, Whitlock’s human resources manager.

Power and gas to the plant was shut off immediately after the explosion, the city said.

The Lakeland Fire Department responded to the scene.

Whitlock acquired the 300,000-square-foot facility as part of the 2004 acquisition of Juice Bowl Products, according to the website.

The plant, which is open 24/7, bottles non-carbonated beverages for several national brands, Lewis said. The company’s website said the plant also processes citrus.

Lewis said equipment at the facility is continually monitored, and an outside company performs required maintenance, according to a tweet from the city.

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