Zilwaukee, MI Grain Elevator Explosion, Jan 1976

Zilwaukee MI Grain Elevator Blast 1076 3.jpg Zilwaukee MI Grain Elevator Blast 1976.jpg


Zilwaukee, Mich. (UPI) -- A cardboard sign in a hallway at the huge grain elevator complex read:
"731 days without a work loss through accident."
The sign with the proud boast remained intact Friday amid a scene of death and destruction.
Nearby, rescue crews pulled at the twisted metal and broken concrete of the Farm Bureau Service elevator complex and investigators probed through the rubble for clues to an explosion that killed five workmen and injured 12 others Thursday.
Speculation centered on the most dreaded hazard in grain elevators -- grain dust that can ignite at the slightest spark.
Grain dust was blamed for a 1969 explosion that killed three workers and injured four at the site.
"This one was worse, much worse," said Richard Maleski, a Zilwaukee Township volunteer fireman.
"It's a tragic mess."
The latest explosion was so powerful that it showered chunks of concrete over an acre of ground. Damage was estimated in the millions of dollars.
The devastation was so complete at the facility, a series of 36 grain silos and a 240-foot tall elevator, that rescue crews still searched for the body of the fifth victim more than 24 hours after the blast.
List of the victims:
BRUCE D. O'DELL, 32, Saginaw.
JACK STORM, 43, Saginaw.
GEORGE MURLEY, 55, Saginaw.
ROGER HORNEY, 44, Freeland, Mich.
CLIFFORD SCHUMANN, Bay City, Mich. (missing man).
List of the injured:
LARRY FESS, 24, Saginaw.
JOSEPH HERNANDEZ, 47, Saginaw, critical condition.
WILLIAM WENZEL, 31, Montrose, Mich., critical condition.
HAROLD SPENCER, 48, Saginaw, serious condition.
EVERETT A. SMITH, 38, Hemlock, Mich., fair condition.
WILLIAM STEFFNEY, 44, Saginaw, fair condition.
WALKER CARTER, 28, Saginaw, fair condition.
RUSSELL KIME, 21, Reese, Mich., fair condition.
JAMES M. NUGENT, 51, Saginaw, good condition.
TERRY SCHAFER, in his 20s, Zilwaukee, was treated and released.
One of the injured workers, LARRY FESS, a 24 year old Saginaw maintenance man, spent 13 harrowing hours pinned under tons of rubble in zero temperatures at a height of 165 feet.
FESS was lifted to safety by a crane at 12:15 a.m. Friday.
Doctors said liquids froze as they attempted to treat him intravenously. They packed dozens of hot water bottles around every visible part of his body.
One of his rescuers suffered exposure. Three other volunteers were hospitalized with frostbite.
FESS was caught atop a silo at the foot of the only wall left standing after the explosion. The threat of a collapse kept rescuers from using power tools that might vibrate and bring the wall down on them and FESS.
The explosion occurred in a tower seven stories tall that housed grain hoists and other equipment. Eighteen men were working in the area at the time.

Berkshire Eagle Pittsfield Massachusetts 1976-01-24