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Marine cleared to come home after father dies in deadly blast

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Posted at 4:38 PM, Jan 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-25 17:38:39-05

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Fire Department has identified the two victims killed Friday morning in an explosion in northwest Houston.

Chief Sam Pena said Frank Flores and Gerardo Castorena Sr., employees of Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, were using the gym facility before the workday when the explosion happened. Both were killed.

Chief Art Acevedo informed the public that the son of Castorena was in the U.S. Marines and sent a plea to community members advising them to reach out to the Marines in order for him to come home immediately. Over twenty-four hours later, the Marines agreed to let the solider travel home to be with his family, according to the military group 'Boots for Troops'.

People were rocked awake around 4:30 a.m. The blast shook homes miles away.

Early Friday morning, a neighbor who lives five miles away from Watson Grinding said she felt the plant explosion.

"I did feel it shake the house. It was pretty strong," Bobbie said.

Just five minutes earlier, she'd been on the phone with her friend.

He works at the Watson Grinding plant and always arrives early.

"They have a gym. He usually gets his workout early before he starts work," she said.

But on Friday, he had a concern. He told Bobbie over the phone that he smelled something strange.

"He goes, 'Hey, something is not right.' I'm like why? And he's like, 'I'm here in the parking lot at my job and I just smell something really, really funny'. He goes, 'It smells like gas.'"

Then, Bobbie says her friend walked towards the building.

"He said, 'Let me walk up to the door.' So he walked to the door and he said, 'I can hear a very loud hissing sound.'"

A co-worker arrived as he looked into the issue. He told her that he'd call back minutes later.

She heard the explosion, and Bobbie hasn't been able to reach him since.

"I saw the name of the plant, Watson and then I knew," said Bobbie.

She said he has two daughters and a son in the Marines.

"He would have called me. We had a date tonight. We had a date tonight," she said.