Searcy, AR Titan Missle Silo Explosion, Aug 1965

Death Count In Missile Silo Explosion Rises To Grim 53

Search For Bodies Continues

SEARCY, Ark. (AP) - The death count from an explosion and fire in a Titan II missile launching site rose to 53 today with the discovery of six more bodies on lower levels of the underground silo.
"It is very possible this is the final count," said Capt. DOUGLAS WOOD, Air Force public information officer at the site.
Searchers planned to pump several feet of water out of the bottom of the concrete tube holding the missile before giving up the search.
The exact number of civilians workmen in the missile complex at the time of the blast and fire Monday was uncertain through the long night of probing - first hopefully, for survivors, and then for the bodies of the dead.
Two workmen scrambled out when the fire erupted and escaped without serious injury.
The Air Force said all the victims apparently asphyxiated when the blast and fire sealed off their means of escape and filled the complex with smoke.
Rescue teams wearing asbestos suits and gas masks, and using special gear to breathe in the smoke-clogged silo, worked through the night bringing the bodies to the surface.
The Air Force said the 100-foot Titan II in the tube, an intercontinental ballistics missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead 6,000 miles, did not burn.
It was not armed, a spokesman said, and there was no danger of a nuclear explosion.
Cause of the blast and fire has not been determined.
The men in the tube were civilians working to update the missile complex, one of 18 Titan II launching sites ringing central Arkansas.
Four Air Force crewmen in the control center of the complex - the most distant point from the launch area - got out unharmed.
At least eight other Air Force men and a number of civilians working above ground were not harmed by the blast.
Some 100 relatives, clustered in small groups and talking quietly, waited under a full moon in the warm night air for word of the rescue operation. Air Force police kept everyone a half mile from the tube.
The first bodies were brought out at 7:30 p. m., about four hours after the blast.
The site is about 12 miles outside Searcy, a town of 8,000 about 50 miles northeast of Little Rock.
The fire broke out while carpenters, painters, millwrights, electricians and pipefitters were working in the complex.
The men were employes of Peter Kiewit and Son Co. of Aurora, Colo. The firm said it would withhold identities of the victims until all the men were accounted for.
The Air Force rescue teams brought up the bodies on a freight elevator.
The bodies were shifted to stretchers and taken to a nearby hut - a temporary morgue - where officials of the Kiewit company identified them by badge number.
Then the bodies were moved to funeral homes.
Ambulances from cities throughout the area were at the scene.
At the start of the search for bodies and survivors, the rescue workers brought in huge air hoses to push out the smoke.
Later they used gas masks and special breathing apparatus when they lowered themselves into the silo. The special breathing gear allowed only 30 minutes work at a time.

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My dad and my brother worked on two other sites. My dad moved between sites. I was 13 at the time and and we lived in Heber Springs. I remember our next door neighbor was confident that her husband was on another site. They had little kids. I can't remember their name, but he was lost in the fire. While I was only a kid myself, I remember that young woman and those little kids. They have always been haunted me and what a horrible thing for her to have lot her husband and the kids their dad. I was one of the fortunate ones in that my family was intact. Years later, I still remember that awful day.

My grandfather died in this

My grandfather died in this accident when I was just 2 years old. I am now 53 and lived my life not knowing him. According to my mother, her father had promised my grandmother this was going to be his last job before retiring and moving to the country. That's about the time she broke down crying because I never knew him. My grandfather was Archie A. Martin. Age 69. My grandmother never wanted for anything except her husband.

Missle base explosion Searcy, AR

My Father-in law, late Edwin Pruitt was a delivery driver, delivering supplies to the site. From stories I had heard from him and my Husband, late James Pruitt, Edwin had just left the site when the explosion occurred. James was in high school at the time. James had told me that all students that had someone working at the site were called away from their classes and held together till word of their loved ones came available.



Mis spelling

William H Stuckey was mispelled in the original article. He and his son were in the silo when it went up. Both died horribly.