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POSTED July 30, 2013 9:58 p.m.

MASSIVE EXPLOSIONS ROCK CENTRAL FLA. GAS PLANT: TAVARES, Fla. (AP) — After hearing two explosions, maintenance worker Gene Williams looked outside to see a 20-by-20 foot fireball rising above an outdoor storage area at the Blue Rhino propane plant.

Moments later, a forklift worker stumbled into the building with flesh hanging off his hands. His legs and face were burned. Exploding 20-pound canisters of propane began raining down around them during the series of explosions late Monday night.

Bright orange flames would grow as high as 200 feet, fueled by the exploding canisters that shot through the air like fireworks. Houses nearby shook and residents awakened to the sound of "boom after boom after boom."

No one died, but eight workers were injured, including one worker who was hit by a car on a nearby road while fleeing the explosions. Officials said the damage could have been significantly worse if three 30,000-pound propane storage containers had caught fire at the plant that refills propane tanks for gas grills and other home uses. About 50 nearby houses were temporarily evacuated, though none was ultimately damaged.

If the large tanks had exploded, "it would have wiped us out," said Lake County Battalion Chief Chris Croughwell, one of the first responders to the explosions in the town northwest of Orlando.

HILLARY CLINTON GROUP RAISES $1 MILLION: BOSTON (AP) — She's yet to say whether she'll run, but a group working to support Hillary Rodham Clinton's prospective presidential bid raised more than $1 million in June alone.

The Ready for Hillary super PAC has accepted donations exceeding $1.25 million since beginning to raise money in earnest this spring, an official with the group confirmed Tuesday. The figure includes more than $1 million last month as the operation begins to ramp up.

Clinton, who resigned as secretary of state in February, has not announced whether she will seek the presidency in 2016. But the super PAC dedicated to encouraging her to run has attracted several prominent Democratic donors and campaign operatives in recent weeks.

The official says that Ready for Hillary will report roughly $1 million in the bank after expenses, with three-quarters of all expenses focused on digital advertising to help build its email list and social media capacity. The organization has already collected donations from all 50 states, according to the official.

MAN IN COURT ON CHARGES HE VIDEOED BURNING BOY: CHICORA, Pa. (AP) — A defense lawyer said Tuesday he may ask for bail reduction for the western Pennsylvania man accused of throwing nail polish on his girlfriend's 7-year-old son then recording him after he was set on fire.

Attorney Gerald Cassady said he may ask that bond be lowered for Edward Myers, whose preliminary hearing Tuesday was delayed while prosecutors seek to interview another possible witness.

Myers is in jail on $250,000 bond, which he has been unable to make. His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 13.

Cassady said Myers is "shocked" and has trouble believing he's in jail.

The 36-year-old Saxonburg man is facing felony assault and other charges related to the alleged May 25 attack. He's pleaded not guilty. He declined to comment before his court appearance Tuesday, about 30 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Police said Myers threw nail polish on the boy then did nothing to help him after he was set on fire, either by Myers or other boys at the home in Saxonburg. The boy suffered third-degree burns on his face and chest and had welts on his forehead from being shot with a plastic pellet gun. Myers' 15-year-old son is facing juvenile charges in the incident.

The criminal complaint said police seized several cellphones during the investigation, but Cassady said he hasn't seen any videos of the alleged attack yet. According to the complaint, the boy said it "seemed like hours" before his mother returned home and took him to the hospital. Myers allegedly telephoned the boy's mother after the incident but didn't tell her that her son was injured.

BILL URGES SCHOOLS TO STOCK ANTI-ALLERGY DRUG: WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Tuesday passed legislation aimed at helping schools better prepare for severe, sometimes life-threatening, allergic reactions caused by eating peanuts or other food products.

The measure would give grant preferences to states that come up with policies to make epinephrine, a drug used to treat anaphylactic shock, available in schools. It would also encourage schools to permit trained administrators to administer epinephrine to students believed to be having an anaphylactic reaction and require states to review their liability laws to ensure that administrators have adequate legal protections when they come to the aid of students.

FORMER SEN. HARRY BYRD JR. OF VIRGINIA DIES AT 98: RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Harry F. Byrd Jr., a 20th century champion of racial segregation and fiscal restraint who followed his father into the U.S. Senate but left his father's Democratic Party, died Tuesday. He was 98.

Byrd, whose genteel demeanor masked thundering political clout, was the archetypal Southern senator during his 17 years in Washington. His 1983 retirement amounted to an epilogue for the "Byrd Machine" which once dominated Virginia politics from courthouses to the statehouse.

When failing health forced his father, Harry F. Byrd Sr., to vacate his Senate seat in 1965, the namesake son easily won a special election the next year to serve out his term. Then he left the still-dominant Democratic organization, marking only the second time an independent candidate had won a U.S. Senate seat. He won re-election in 1970 and 1976, winning more votes than his Democratic and Republican opponents combined.

"It's a hard way to run, but if you can win that way it's the best way to win," Byrd later said. "You're totally free of obligations to anybody. ... You don't have to follow a party line."

From the 1920s through the 1960s, almost all Virginia public policy carried the Byrd imprimatur, from its debt-averse "pay-as-you-go" approach to government finance to defiance of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down racially segregated public schools. In 1956, Byrd denounced the ruling as an "unwarranted usurpation of power" by the high court.

 

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