Baton Rouge, LA Chemical Plant Explosion, Mar 1961
4 BLASTS RIP PLANT.
2 CHEMICAL WORKERS KILLED IN EXPLOSION; 32 OTHERS INJURED.
Baton Rouge, La. (AP) -- Four earth-shaking blasts ripped two five-story chemical units at the Ethyl Corp. plant here Thursday.
Two workers were killed and 32 injured.
CHARLES R. JOHNSON, 50, a supervisor, and URBAN A. CALLAIS, 58, a tetraethyl lead operator, were dead. Their bodies were found nine hours later when emergency workers were able to enter the damaged section of the plant.
Danger of new explosions and unsafe chemicals delayed re-entry by emergency workers.
The Ethyl plant, in the hub of the vast petro-chemical industrial complex here, employes 2,800 persons.
Workmen fled for their lives when the explosions rained bricks, tile and window glass over the plant area about 9 a.m. WIndows rattled in the 34-story state capitol two miles south.
A giant, mushroom cloud puffed upward some 3,000 feet, looking like an atomic blast column.
Breezes pushed the cloudy, chemical fumes across the Mississippi River, away from a residential section.
There were early reports a chlorine gas unit might be involved. School officials hurriedly evacuated a nearby public elementary school. But plant spokesmen gave assurances the gas unit was away from the blast area and the pupils returned to classes.
Emergency crews conquered massive flames that engulfed the explosion area.
The plant, employing 2,800 persons in the hub of the vast petro-chemical industrial complex here, said two men, CHARLES R. JOHNSON, 50, a supervisor, and URBAN A CALLAIS, 58, a tetraethyl lead operator, were missing and apparently dead.
Seven men, with blackened faces and ripped clothing, were carried into nearby Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. Four were reported critically or seriously injured.
Ethyl officials said cause of the blasts was unknown, and investigations were continuing. Amount of damage was undetermined.
The company manufactures many chemical products from petroleum.
Logansport Press Indiana 1961-03-03
31 MEN HURT IN EXPLOSIONS.
Baton Rouge (AP) -- Three explosions in a chemical wash house rocked the big Ethyl Corp. plant Thursday, injuring 31 workers.
A company statement said later two men were missing. Their names were withheld.
An Ethyl spokesman at the plant, said six men were sent to city hospitals, and 25 others were treated at the plant medical center. He said as far as he could determine there were no deaths.
Some 3,000 workers are employed in the big chemical center.
The first explosion destroyed the brick 2 1/2-story
wash house, used to take the impurities out of various engine anti-knock chemicals.
Bricks rained over a wide area. One workman a block away said he was knocked 10 to 15 feet by the blast.
J. D. ADAMS, an iron worker in the plant, said two or three men usually worked in the wash house. But he added he had no idea if they were in the building at the time of the blast.
"If they were in the building," ADAMS said, "they probably won't find any part of them."
"Everybody was told to get out," he said. "They were afraid of more explosions."
ADAMS said the men really started moving when the second explosion occurred. A third blast followed about five minutes later as workers ran the mile or so to safety.
A big, yellowish, muchroom-shaped cloud spread over the area. A plant spokesman said what fumes there were drifted westward across the Mississippi River, away from the industrial population area.
One worker said flames leaped 75 to 100 feet in the air.
A nearby school was evacuated after a chlorine unit was reported damaged. However, a plant spokesman said the blast occurred at the opposite end of the plant from the chlorine unit and there was no danger from chlorine gas.
Only emergency traffic was allowed to go through the area which is the heart of the big petro-chemical plants. The plants extract various chemicals from petroleum.
A plant spokesman identified the six hospitalized as:
HENRY HOUDART, a supervisory employe.
NELSON DUNHAM, a tetra-ethyl-lead operator.
WILBUR WILLARD, engineering employe.
NOAH DAVIS, worker.
HENRY PHILLIPS, laborer.
PHILLIP HIGGINS, employe of a contractor, Bernard & Burk.
One eyewitness, Francis E. Stacey, said he was about 100 yards from one explosion when it knocked a Negro worker to the ground.
Another eyewitness, unidentified, said he was in the plant lunchroom about 700 feet away when the roof fell in.
Lake Charles American Press Louisiana 1961-03-03