Muscle Shoals, AL Smelting Furnace Explosion, Sept 1967


Muscle Shoals, Ala. (UPI) -- A smelting furnace explosion that shook four surrounding towns and ripped a 1,000-foot-long building "like a tin can," left four persons dead and 40 injured Tuesday at the Reynolds Aluminum Co. casting plant.
The plant, one of the largest of its type in the nation, employs about 5,000 persons, but the blast came at 11:27 p.m. Monday, during the midnight shift change, when only about 80 persons were in the building.
A Reynolds official, BOB HOLLOWAY, said the cause of the explosion in the natural gas-fueled furnace had not been determined.
The explosion was followed by an awesome burst of flame that shot 400 feet into the night skies.
Three of the victims, one burned beyond recognition, were killed on the spot, and the fourth died a few hours later in a hospital. Of the 40 injured six were hospitalized and one was on the critical list.
The dead were identified as:
MARVIN BULLARD, all killed at the scene.
JOHN DAILY, who died later in a hospital.
Residents of Muscle Shoals and the surrounding towns of Tuscumbia, Sheffield and Florence were shaken out of their beds by the blast and flooded police switchboards with calls.
Fire trucks from the four towns, all within a six mile radius, rushed to the scene.
Foreman H. T. QUILLEN said he was about 100 feet away from the building where the furnaces are housed when, "I saw a ball of fire and the next thing I knew I was on the ground."
Another foreman, HERMAN SOCKWELL, said he was in the parking lot beside the building when the roof "went up like a tin can."
The blast was followed by a "sickening silence," SOCKWELL said, and he ran to the building but
"couldn't see much for the dust."
Other workers wandered aimlessly around the grounds seemingly in shock.
QUILLEN said after he was knocked to the ground chunks of steel girders and concrete
"came raining down all around me."
One of the victims, he said, was wrapped around a steel post at a corner of the building, another body was found with its clothing blown off and still another was dismembered and pinned beneath a steel girder.

Kingsport News Tennessee 1967-09-13