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Man, 34, dies from explosion injuries

SEATTLE - A seventh person has died from the Tesoro Corp. refinery blast in Anacortes.

Matt Gumbel died early Saturday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a nursing supervisor said.

Gumbel, 34, of Oak Harbor, had been in the hospital’s intensive care unit with serious burns. He had undergone skin graft surgery a few hours before his death, KOMO-TV reported.

An explosive fire at the Tesoro Corp. refinery engulfed Gumbel and six other workers April 2. It was the deadliest event at a U.S. refinery since 15 people died at a BP facility in Texas in 2005.

A community memorial service for all the refinery victims is set for 2 p.m. today at Anacortes High School’s Brodniak Hall.

The six other victims were Daniel J Aldridge, 50, of Anacortes; Kathryn Powell, 29, of Burlington; Matthew C. Bowen, 31, of Arlington; Darrin J. Hoines, 43, of Ferndale; Donna Van Dreumel, 36, of Oak Harbor; and Lew Janz, 41.

The cause of the explosion still is unknown, but federal investigators believe that workers were engulfed in “a firewall” that ignited within seconds.

The company said earlier this month that employees were doing routine maintenance on a unit that processes highly flammable liquid derived during the refining process.

Ongoing asbestos cleanup and structural concerns in the area have hampered investigators’ access to the blast site, Hector Castro, a spokesman with the Washington Department of Labor and Industry, said Saturday.

“It’s going to take longer to get in there,” Castro said. “We know the explosion took place where the heat exchangers are. Inspectors need to go there and examine the machinery but have only been able to do it at a distance.”

Castro said investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board are also waiting for better access to do their own examination of the blast site.

The department has also expanded its investigation to include two contractors that worked in the area prior to the explosion, Castro said.

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