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May 2000 Vol. 15, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Another Aluminum Tank Maiming

from the May, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Sorry to say, it seems our article on the risk of explosion in aging aluminum tanks (see 3/00 issue of Undercurrent) was a timely one. On March 17, Key Largo dive operator Bill Gordon of Admiral Dive Center was filling personal cylinders at Silent World Dive Center when a DOT3AL 80 c.f. aluminum cylinder exploded, splitting into at least three pieces. One 6x12" piece of shrapnel tore into his left leg and severed it just below the hip. Doctors were reportedly unable to reattach the limb. The force of the explosion blew a hole in the side of the shed, and a neighbor who was walking her dog 150' away was flattened against a fence and knocked to the ground. The Department of Transportation is investigating the incident.

As we said in our article, readers should remember that the two primary reasons for cylinder failure are human errors (corrosive abuse, overheating cylinders during a re-painting process, etc.) or a defect in the alloy present in some cylinders. Tanks made from aluminum alloy 6351-T6 (often U.S. tanks manufactured prior to 1990 or tanks manufactured outside the U.S.) carry an increased risk of explosion, which usually occurs during the filling process. (For a complete DOT list of tanks at risk, see the 3/00 issue.) If in doubt, have the tank professionally inspected.

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