Edgar Thompson Steel Works Explosion
August 23, 1895
FIRE ENVELOPED THEM.
Workmen Killed by an Explosion in a Steel Works.
CAUSED BY CARELESSNESS.
A Furnace at the Thompson Works in Braddock,
Penn., Was Choked and Sixteen Men Were Engulfed
in Flames of Exploding Gas – A Volcanic Eruption
of Liquid Metal.
The fall of a “hang” in the top of furnace H of
the Edgar Thompson Steel Works at Braddock,
Penn., caused an explosion which resulted in the
death of eight men. Eight other men received
burns, and some of them were fatally injured.
The killed are: JOHN GRENGO, JOSEPH LUCKNI,
forty-five years old, married; JOHN PROKOPOVIC,
twenty-seven, married; STEPHEN HAVLIN,
thirty-two; JOHN MIKA, twenty-eight, married;
JOSEPH CSOP, thirty-one; ANDREW DROBUAH,
thirty-five, married; MIKE KAFINES, twenty-six,
The last two men died after being taken to
the hospital. The explosion occurred at 5
o'clock a. m., when preparations were being made
for the morning melt. The force of the rush of
expanding gas was terrific, and frightened the
entire town of Braddock. Hundreds of half clad
men, women and children flocked to the mill to
inquire the cause of the noise and the result.
The majority were Hungarian and Polish women who
live near the mill, and had husbands and
brothers working at the furnaces. They crowded
into the yards over railroad tracks which form a
network about the row of furnaces and could not
be forced back. They swarmed through the stock
sheds, and soon the air was filled with dries
and groans as the bodies were picked up and
The carelessness or ignorance of one of the
top fillers, all of whom are Hungarians, caused
the accident. The refuse material which forms a
“hang” had been allowed to accumulate until its
size obstructed the free passage of the gases
generated in the melting of ore. One of the top
fillers dumped a barrow full of stock into the
furnace without raising the boil, and this
obstructed the opening still more. The top of
the furnace was practically closed, and a force
of men was sent there at once to remove the
material which closed up the top.
While the men were trying to accomplish this
working directly over the top of the furnace,
the “hang” dropped into the molten metal at the
bottom of the furnace. At the same instant the
gases, which could not escape because of the
obstruction at the top, took fire and exploded
with a deafening roar, the sheet of flame
belched out the top of the furnace, striking the
men who were scattered all about it, blowing
them in various directions. The materials
loosened at the sides of the furnace by the fall
of the “hang” and the explosion followed the
rush of flame.
The debris dropped back upon the men, already
frightfully burned by the gas. One man was blown
over one of the elevators and dropped down
through it. His body struck a car standing at
the bottom and was cut in two. Other men were
burned beyond recognition, and were identified
by clothing or physical peculiarities.
Only one man, was killed instantly, but the
others in the list of dead died while being
taken to the shed. The position of the men while
working at the top of the furnace was such that
they had no chance to escape. The iron covering
at the extreme top checked the flames enough to
drive them back down, thus enveloping the men
completely. After the first rush the flames
poured out of the opening steadily, and it was a
hazardous task for the rescuers to go up and
bring the bodies down. All the injured, except
JAMES HARRISON, the foreman, were Hungarians.
The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1895-08-23
Submitted & transcribed by
Stu Beitler Thank you, Stu!
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