Brighton, IL Welding Shop Explosion, Apr 1982


A 22-year-old rural Alton man was killed in a Thursday afternoon explosion and fire in Brighton, which leveled two business buildings.
The body of THOMAS L. LOWE, a welder who was alone in the shop operated by Olson Deane Environmental Service Co. (ODESA), was found in the rest room area of the welding shop after firemen had worked about 45 minutes to cool the fire, said Macoupini County Deputy Coroner Brad Targhetta.
Two other ODESA employees had left for lunch about five minutes before the 12:30 p.m. explosion, he said.
The welding shop was opened in September and LOWE had been an employee since October, a company spokesman said.
Just after the fire was brought under control about 2:30 p.m., a 6-inch water main ruptured along U.S. 67 and traffic was limited to one-lane until repair was completed at 7 p.m.
The main ruptured because of the stress created as firemen turned hoses off and on, said Belmont Scheffel, village water and sewer superintendent. Two businesses and one residence were still without water service this morning.
Electric service in the area of the fire scene was restored about 7 p.m.
The welding shop was on Market Street just off U.S. 67 behind a Shell Service Station and adjacent to a car dealership.
First news reports placed the fire at the Rathgeb Bros. Chrysler Agency.
LOWE was welding a seam in a tanker and had apparently gone to the rest-room area before the explosion, said Macoupin County Coroner Charles Landers.
This information was based on preliminary investigation by a representative of the Illinois Fire Marshal's office, he said.
The heat from the welded seam apparently triggered an explosion of materials still in the tanker, Landers said.
Investigation by his office, the fire marshal and the Macoupin County sheriff's office continues, he said.
A part of the ODESA operation is clearing spills on highways. The tanker which exploded was a vacuum type used to suck liquids such as oil off road surfaces, authorities said.
"I heard the loud explosion and by the time I got to building flames were shooting up out of the entire center of the building," said Bill Ghere, who operates an auto body shop across Market Street from the Shell station.
There were several smaller explosions as the fire raged, he said.
The explosion rattled windows over a several block area.
Betty Price, dispatcher at the Brighton Police Department, said she heard the explosion and almost immediately saw the smoke.

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