Chicago, IL Meat Plant Explosion, Feb 1968


Chicago (UPI) -- The toll of persons killed when a meat-packing plant exploded and burst into flames just after several hundred employes went home for the day Wednesday, climbed to six today.
At least two others were missing and feared dead.
Workmen who labored through the night knocking down the two remaining walls and a chimney -- all
that was left of the block square plant -- this morning found the sixth body. The victim was believed to be the president of the Mickleberry's Food Products Co. plant, ROY R. LAIDLEY.
The plant, which produced meat products and sausage, was leveled by a blast apparently touched off by a leaking gasoline tank truck.
Children were screaming, people were bleeding and "firemen were lying all over the place," one witness said.
A check of hospitals indicated that at least 75 persons were injured, 23 hospitalized and three in critical condition. Thirteen of the injured were firemen.
Most of the injuries occurred while firemen were on the roof of a one-story section of the more than 400 employe plant trying to rescue some of the 20 frightened office workers who had poured onto the roof from the second-story windows of the adjacent two-story office section.
Two smaller explosions had occurred before the mass scramble on the roof and as firemen helped the employes descend ladders the third and most massive explosion sent them hurtling to the street below.
RALPH CONDON, a 250-pound policeman who had been on the roof, said, "It was like riding on soft air." He was tossed across the street.
The roof of the building "seemed to rise and then fall down," CONDON said in describing the collapse of the plant.
LAIDLEY was last seen in his office. After the blast there was only a door hanging from its frame leading to an abyss two stories deep. Also missing were LAIDLEY's secretary and an unidentified employe.
The company's board chairman and secretary, G. E. Duwe, of suburban Hinsdale, estimated the damage would exceed $1 million.
Authorities said the holocaust apparently started when a gasoline truck driven by BERNARD DEYOUNG of suburban Oak Lawn, hit something and caught fire in the alley behind the plant.
CONDON said he and another policeman were driving in front of the plant on Halstead Street, just three blocks south of the huge Union Stock Yards complex on the South Side, when DEYOUNG came racing out of the alley saying, "I hit something in the alley. My truck is on fire."
James Neville, second deputy fire marshal, said the gas apparently leaked from the 6,000 gallon tank of the truck into the basement of the meat-packing plant. Chief Fire Marshal Harry Volkamer speculated that the fumes were touched off by hot water heaters or furnaces.

Capital Times Madison Wisconsin 1968-02-08

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