William Smith, who had only been with the city’s public works department for a month, received extensive injuries to his eyes and was rushed to WellStar Kennestone Hospital.
Marvin Markham, who was celebrating his 13th year with the city that day, sustained minor cuts to his face that required stitches and was treated at the scene, according to the city.
Police responded to a call at 8 a.m. from the neighborhood located where Allgood Road splits into Scufflegrit Road after two oxygen tanks exploded out the back of a sanitation truck while being crushed by the compactor.
“It caused a catastrophic rupture of a canister,” Marietta Police Officer Dave Baldwin said about the oxygen tanks, which are the type used to assist a person with breathing problems.
Baldwin said trash that contained the tanks came from a residence on Brentwood Drive. Sanitation workers dumped the trash into the truck as the crew rounded a corner down the residential street with mostly two-story brick homes and manicured lawns.
Freda Huyen, a neighbor who lives directly between where the garbage was collected and the explosion, said she heard the loud noise while she was “half asleep” at around 7:30 a.m.
Huyen said when she came outside, the driver of the sanitation truck shouted for her to call 911.
The truck’s compactor hit the high-pressured tanks as the large metal door was closing and scattered debris across the street.
“All the trash in front basically became shrapnel,” Baldwin said.
Fragments from the metal oxygen tanks were shot at least 40 yards and pieces were found a few homes away, according to Baldwin.
The sanitation truck was not damaged.
There was no property damage caused by the explosion and any debris was cleaned up within two hours, leaving the neighborhood in its original state by the afternoon.
The woman who owned the home on Brentwood Drive had died, and her family was cleaning out her house when they threw away the two oxygen tanks, Baldwin said.
Huyen said the house has been empty, but family members of the dead woman had an estate sale recently.
Baldwin said police are talking to the president of the neighborhood homeowners association to get in contact with the current owners of the home.
Baldwin said he is unsure if charges will be filed, but that the department is investigating.
The oxygen tanks, which were tagged to expire in 2018, still have labels with the manufacturer’s name and tracking numbers that can be used, Baldwin said.
Dan Conn, the city’s public works director, said this is the first incident of its kind he has seen while working for the city’s sanitation department over the past nine years.
An oxygen tank is typically rented from a supplier that refills it several times and should be returned to that supplier for disposal, Conn said.
Conn said these pressurized tanks normally have directions on a label for consumers about disposal, refilling and recycling.
“Oxygen tanks do not belong in the waste stream,” Conn said.