Sioux City, IA Plant Explosion, Dec 1949
16 DEAD IDENTIFIED IIN SIOUX CITY BLAST.
NINE OF 90 OTHERS INJURED REMAIN IN CRITICAL CONDITION AS WORKMEN AND MACHINES DIG INTO RUBBLE OF PACKING PLANT OFFICE BUILDING.
Sioux City, Ia., Dec. 15 (AP) -- Amid a scene of ruin "just like the place had been bombed," workmen and machines today dug through rubble where at least 16 persons perished in a violent explosion yesterday.
As sorrowing families of the 16 identified dead went about funeral preparations the search at the Swift & Co. packing plant continued for three persons still missing.
Nine of some 90 other persons injured remained in critical condition at hospitals.
Leaking gas which had hampered search operations was stopped last night.
Workmen who labored throughout the night under floodlights used blow torches to melt away twisted girders.
Fumes Cut Off.
The searchers were able to discard their gas masks after ammonia fumes from the plant's shattered refrigeration system were cut off at their source.
The blast rocked the building shortly before the noon hour yesterday. There were about 1,000 persons in the building.
The front end of the building was hit hardest. The first and second floors, which housed the office staff and company restaurant, got the brunt of the blast.
Part of the second floor ceiling caved in. A reinforced concrete loading dock at the southwest corner of the building fell into the basement. Several bodies were recovered there.
There was an almost warlike atmosphere today as trucks and bulldozers moved ahead on the slow job of removing the debris. A veteran of the European front in World War II said he had seen lots of bombed out buildings "but never anything as bad as this."
National Guardsmen still patroled the area around the plant. It is located in the heart of the Sioux City Stockyards, one of the nation's major terminal markets.
No formal investigation into the specific cause and location of the explosion had been begun. Fire Chief CHARLES KUHL assigned escaping natural gas as the cause.
Chart Inquiry Today.
Mayor DAN J. CONLEY, who called a meeting of all key officials for today "to go over the whole situation," said an investigation "definitely would be made."
The direction of his investigation, he said, remains undetermined. At present, the mayor continued, the search effort remains in charge of the Iowa National Guard units at the scene.
It seemed unlikely any mass funeral would be held for the victims. Private arrangements for last rites already had been made by two families.
Plant Remains Closed.
A Swift & Co. spokesman said the plant would be shut down "for some time."
Assistant Fire Chief CLARENCE CHAPPELLE said last night he expected to find four more bodies in the debris. This figure was reduced to three today after one of the four missing persons reported he was safe.
However, H. C. WATTS, chief construction engineer for the company said shortly before noon that searchers now doubt that bodies of the three missing persons are still in the plant.
The company said 12 of the persons killed in the blast were employes in the operating departments of the firm and that a company nurse was the only office employe injured fatally. Three others killed were outsiders at the loading dock.
Twelve company experts, headed by K. H. CLARKE, vice president in charge of plant operations, began a study into the specific cause of the explosion.
A company spokesman said "it may be some time -- if ever -- before an exact cause is determined." He said the plant had been using natural gas since 1932.
Representatives of the firm's Employes Benefit Association were calling on families of victims to see what financial aid is needed. The Red Cross also announced it has funds on hand to meet emergency needs.
Fire Chief KUHL, estimated the damage "at more than $1,000,000."
A spokesman for 12 company officials, who came here from Chicago by a chartered plane, said they were conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the explosion. He said the officials "couldn't even guess" the extent of the damage.
List Of Dead.
Sioux City, (AP) -- The list of dead in the Swift & Co. packing plant explosion includes:
ARTHUR DE LAUGHTER.
ALVIN E. HECK, Homer, Neb.
HENRY LOUIS BABCOK.
RALPH PAUL BECK.
GLENDON MERRILL JOHNSON, Bronson, Ia.
JOHN M. BUTLER.
DAVID JOSEPH SELKIRK, Hinton, Ia.
CLARENCE JOHN RASMUSSEN.
ROLAND LOUIS EDIE.
THOMAS RAYMOND PARKER.
MRS. RUTH TEAGER, South Sioux City, Neb., plant nurse.
LEWIS A. JONES.
(Except where otherwise listed all of the dead are from Sioux City.)
Moberly Monitor - Index Missouri 1949-12-15