Chicago, IL Meat Plant Explosion, Feb 1968


Chicago (UPI) -- A chain of explosions and fast-spreading flames ripped through a block-square sausage plant on Chicago's South Side Wednesday, hurling victims into the street.
At least eight persons were killed and 76 injured.
Three of the dead and at least 18 of the injured were firemen. They were caught in the last and most powerful of the blasts as they battled flames and sought to rescue plant employes trapped on the roof by the fire.
Many of the injured were spectators who came to watch the fire.
The series of blasts -- some witnesses counted three, some said four, some said six -- leveled the Mickleberry Food Products Co. brick and concrete plant in a mixed industrial and residential area just south of Chicago's Union Stockyards.
The first explosion occurred about 4:30 p.m., a half-hour after 85 day-shift production workers had stopped work at the plant. Office workers and a night cleanup crew were still inside.
The arson squad was called in to help determine the cause of the series of blasts. Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn said investigators were attempting to determine whether gasoline leaking from a damaged 6,000-gallon tank truck in the alley behind the building triggered the disaster.
Firemen prevented the gasoline trailer unit from exploding by pouring foam on it but the tractor unit was charred.
The dead included Fire Capt. JOHN FISHER and firemen EDWARD LIEFKER and CHARLES BOETTEGER. Hospital officials identified another victim as THOMAS MONGAN, 58, believed to be an official of Mickleberry. They said one was an unidentified youth about 17.
Another was believed to be the president of the plant, ROY LAIDLEY.
Witnesses said the most powerful blast occurred as firemen and injured workers swarmed over the roof of the one-story section of the plant. One witness estimated 25 persons were on the roof and said most of them were blown, bruised and bleeding, to the street.
Charles Peppers, who was driving past the plant, said he saw at least a dozen firemen and seven or eight other people on the roof and others descending ladders.
"More people were in the windows of the building but they couldn't get out," he said.
"Then there was an explosion. I lay down in the car. When I got up there were firemen lying all over the place. Children were screaming and people were bleeding."
Thomas Kringas, 44, who lives about a block from the plant, said he saw a number of firemen on the roof when the big blast came.
"It blew them off the roof," he said. "I thought they must have been killed."

Capital Times Madison Wisconsin 1968-02-09