Delaware City, DE Industrial Plant Explosion, Aug 1977


Delaware City, Del. (AP) -- Safety inspectors searched through the night under floodlights for the cause of an industrial explosion here that killed four men.
The workers were killed and a fifth employe was injured Monday afternoon when the blast razed a 30-by-50-foot building where nitrous oxide was manufactured, officials said.
The blast came at about 4:30 p.m. and could be heard up to five miles away, according to Frederick Calhoon, a spokesman for the New Castle County police.
There was nothing left of the prefabricated building. Twisted pipe and jagged bits of metal sheeting were strewn across a large area.
The dead were brought out on stretchers, their bodies covered. The injured man, WILLIAM HARMON, 31, of Newark, Del., was hospitalized in Wilmington with multiple cuts and burns.
The five men were the only employes in the building at the time of the blast. Excluding 20 truck drivers, about 30 employes work four shifts at the Air Products Inc. facility.
The demolished building is located behind Air Product's main plant here, where highly volitale liquid oxygen and other gases are processed.
The larger facility was not seriously damaged by the blast, company officials said.
Crews fearful of further explosions worked to cap gas lines ripped open by the explosion, then newsmen and photographers were taken on a brief inspection tour of the explosion site.
A team of company safety inspectors from Air Products' headquarters in Allentown, Pa., arrived at the scene about nightfall and began sifting through the debris.
New Castle County and Delaware officials also are involved in the search for the cause of the blast, which was not immediately determined.
Nitrous oxide is a highly explosive gas sometimes used by physicians an anaesthetic or relaxant. It is ofter called "laughing gas" because it makes its subjects giddy.
The Air Products plant here just started nitrous oxide processing in March, according to company spokesman Stewart Stabley, and there has never before been an explosion at the facility.

Daily Times Primos Pennsylvania 1977-08-02