By Jim Smith

AYER – A man was killed and three other people were injured following an explosion at a furnace business in Ayer.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said in a statement Saturday that the unidentified man who died was in his 50s.

ayer 1 Man Killed In Explosion At Ayer Business

A man in his 50s was killed in an explosion at this Ayer business. (WBZ-TV)

About 5:20 p.m. Friday, firefighters and police officers responded to a report of an explosion at Advanced Vacuum Systems on Fitchburg Road in Ayer, Ryan said. The company makes industrial furnace equipment.

Two employees were sent to area hospitals. One of the men later died.

Two mutual aid firefighters also suffered minor injuries while responding to the explosion.

Ayer Fire Chief Robert Pedrazzi said there were three people in the building, working on one of the furnaces, when something went horribly wrong.

“When the explosion occurred, it blew whatever was on fire, it blew it up to the corners of the building, so we had fires around the roof line,” Pedrazzi said. “There was one very large hole in the roof above where the furnace was.”

ayer2 Man Killed In Explosion At Ayer Business

The explosion burned through the roof of the building. (WBZ-TV)

The explosion shook the ground in the neighborhood and beyond.

“All of a sudden we heard a loud explosion and wasn’t quite sure what it was at first, until we saw all the fire trucks and police and ambulances going, rushing down there,” said Becky Brennan, who works nearby.

Hearts are heavy at Tiny’s Restaurant, a favorite eating spot for furnace company employees. Workers have been worried since the explosion.

“We know a lot of the guys that work down there so we hope they’re OK,” said Jess Callahan, who works nearby. “They come in here for lunch a lot and we were thinking of them.”

A preliminary investigation suggests that the explosion was the result of an apparent pressure vessel malfunction, Ryan said.

An investigation is ongoing by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, the Ayer Police Department, the Ayer Fire Department, the Boiler and Pressure Unit of the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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