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Braddock, Pennsylvania

Edgar Thompson Steel Works Explosion

August 23, 1895


Workmen Killed by an Explosion in a Steel Works.


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, married.

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 recognized.

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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