Catastrophic golf-ball factory fire kills nine people. Here’s what happened
A fire at a Taiwan golf-ball factory that produces one-fifth of the world’s ball supply killed nine people, including four firefighters, and injured more than 100, according to the AP.
The blaze broke out Friday at Launch Technologies Co., which isn’t a household name in the U.S. but contracts to make balls for a number of well-known manufacturers, including Topgolf Callaway, TaylorMade and Bridgestone, the AP reported.
According to the report, the fire spread quickly and was followed by an explosion that caused part of the building to collapse, trapping factory-workers inside. Another explosion followed not long after causing even more damage.
Company facing fines and potential charges
Likely a key factor in the fire, the AP reported, is the materials used to produce balls, including organic peroxides which are both highly flammable and explosive.
At a news conference following the fire, the mayor of Pingtung County said that Launch Technologies had 3,000 tons of organic peroxides on site, which is far more than the 100-ton limit for hazardous materials. Taiwanese law requires the organic peroxides to be stored in a separate warehouse, but Launch Technologies kept the material on the first floor of the factory building, according to reports.
The company has already been fined the equivalent of $75,000 for a number of violations related to the fire, including a 20-minute delay in reporting the emergency to authorities, failing to designate a point person to help the fire commander and failing to give a complete inventory of hazardous materials on-site to arriving firefighters.
This is not the first time Launch Technologies has been fined going back to 2011, when the company, according to reports, was ordered to pay compensation for workers who were working overtime beyond the legal limit in conditions harmful to their health. Launch Technologies was fined again in 2018 for other health and safety violations, and in 2020 for air pollution.
The fire is likely to have a lasting impact on ball manufacturing in Taiwan, and presumably will lead to tighter regulations around the storage of hazardous materials.
Launch Technologies is also the supplier for a number of smaller ball brands, including OnCore. For companies that contract with Launch Technologies, quickly finding a new supplier when products have been planned out months, if not years, could create a major logistical strain.
Callaway, in a statement, said: “We are aware of the fire that occurred on Friday at the Pingtung City golf ball factory and are working directly with Launch Tech and local authorities to gather more information. Our thoughts are with all the first responders, employees and families of those who have been affected.”