Clinton, MO Fireworks Plant Explosion, Apr 1947

12 DEAD, THREE INJURED IN CLINTON EXPLOSION AND FIRE.

THIRTEEN OTHERS FLEE INFERNO IN MISSOURI TOWN.

CAUSE OF TRAGEDY IN FIREWORKS PLANT NOT KNOWN; INQUIRY ENDED.

Clinton, Mo., April 3 (AP) -- Twelve persons lost their lives and three others were injured as the result of an explosion and fire which yesterday swept through a fireworks manufacturing plant.
Seven and three women, all between the ages of 50 and 70, were killed in attempting to flee from the one-story frame building where toy buzz bombs were being manufactured.
Two other women died early today.
Of the three on the injured list, one remained in a critical condition.
Thirteen other persons in the plant escaped.
The dead:
J. C. HERST, 62.
ROY BURNSIDES, 62.
FRANK CHANSLOR, 58.
J. S. MOYER, 70.
MRS. EDNA MOYER, 54, wife of J. S. Moyer.
GEORGE C. TALLY, 60.
MRS. LILLIAN SHEPARD, 55.
LYDIA CROCKETT, 50.
W. H. BELTON, 59.
HARRY L. POGUE, 67.
MRS. MORTON JOHNSON, 51.
MRS. HAZEL SHEPARD, 28, daughter-in-law of Mrs. Lillian Shepard.
Cause of the blast was not known. Kelso Journey, prosecuting attorney and acting country coroner said after an inquest that he planned no further investigation.
"In view of the evidence, I can find no criminal neglect." he said.
L. W. Brown, who operated the plant, could give no explanation for the tragedy. He said the powder supply in the plant was kept below 100 pounds at all times.
The bodies, burned almost beyond recognition, were taken to the city hall, where relatives came to make the identification. Some of the victims were so badly burned identification was only possible through rings and other personal effects or through teeth.
C. S. KNOLES, a worker, said the flames swept through the building in a matter of minutes.
"By the time I got to a door, I could hardly find it because of the smoke," he said. "I could hear the girls behind me screaming. I closed my eyes and mouth and started for the road outside. When I reached it I turned around. There was fire everywhere."
Fred Baker, the plant foreman, told a coroner's jury that workers attempting to escape were prevented by a pile up at a small door.
"I was outside at the time," he said, "and saw smoke coming from the room in which JOE HERST was cutting wings for toy buzz bombs. I rushed back into the room. I went to a big sliding door but couldn't get it open so I went back outside and tried to get the door open from the outside."
"A small door in the large sliding door was open, but the workers were so jammed in that small opening that they couldn't get out."
Clinton, about 100 miles southeast of Kansas City, has a population of 6,000.
FLOYD SHEPARD, a worker whose wife died in the fire, told a reporter that she was being led from the building when she remembered her daughter-in-law was in the plant. She cried: "Oh, Hazel," and ran back into the building. Her body was found later in the debris.
C. F. PROVINCE, another worker, said: "I was tamping powder into small tubes and WILL EAST was working alongside me when the fire started."
"EAST ran toward another door but then turned back. The flames were everywhere by then and he started running to the door where I was. The hair on his head began to burn but he made the door all right. I put out the flames in his hair and then the whole building went up in flames.
Brown, who has been in business here since 1923, said he did not plan to start another plant for the making of similar products. He opened the fireworks plant last July.
"We will continue to operate plant No. 1," he added.
This plant manufactures checker games and toy gliders.
Families of those who lost their lives today began making funeral arrangements.

Moberly Monitor Index Missouri 1947-04-03