Rocket Center, WV Ballistics Laboratory Explosion, May 1961



Cumberland, Md. (AP) -- Two buildings were blown up Monday by solid fuel used to hurl rockets into orbit, and nine workers were missing in the explosion's wake.
One of six other men hurt in the blast and fire was in serious condition. Three were in good condition in hospitals, and the other two were released after treatment.
CHARLES GARDNER, son of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Gardner, Hopwood, who has been one of the safety directors at the plant for more than a year, escaped injury in the blast, his parents were notified.
"A big black hole in the ground," was one description of the scene after the morning explosion at the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory. It is operated by Hercules Powder Co. of Wilmington, Del., for the Navy.
The laboratory is located on the West Virginia side of the Potomac River near the borders of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Shock waves were felt and smoke visible seven miles away in Cumberland, where the injured were taken.
Those missing and presumed dead were identified as:
HOWARD D. DEAN, 22, of Goldsborough Avenue, Romney, W. Va., an operator.
MICHAEL ROBERT EVICK, 24, of RD 5, Cumberland, an operator.
GEORGE RICHARD GEIGER, 25, of Corriganville, RD 1, Cumberland, an operator.
CHARLES ROBERT GETSON, 33, Dudley Street, Lonaconing, a maintenance mechanic.
DAVID LEE KENNEY, 27, of 550 Park Avenue, LaVale, an operator.
ROBERT A. WHIPP, 57, of 535 South Main Street, Keyser, W. Va., maintenance mechanic.
KENNETH DUANE YOUNG, 25, of 38 Potomac Street, Ridgeley, an operator.
HERMAN C. WILSON, 63, of 36 Hill Street, Frostburg, maintenance mechanic.
CHARLES JUNIOR ISNER, 41, of 146 Frederick Street, crafthelper maintenance mechanic.
Hercules and Navy officials said "an intensive search of the area is being conducted in an effort to locate those presently listed as missing," but fire and severe heat hampered efforts. The fire was reported under control.
The nine missing were in the immediate explosion area. The six injured were working nearby.
An investigation was launched immediately to determine the cause of the blast and extent of the damage.

The Morning Herald Uniontown Pennsylvania 1961-05-23