Lincolnwood, IL Factory Explosion, July 1968


Lincolnwood, Ill. (AP) -- Fire officials and police will inspect today the rubble of a factory near the northwestern edge of Chicago severely damaged by an explosion which killed one man and injured 31 persons.
State Fire Marshall Robert Thompson said it would take a couple of days to determine what caused the explosion Wednesday at the National Die Casting Co. a half-block long building.
The company manufactured golf carts and exercise bicycles.
Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn said the blast may have been caused by an acetylene torch found "completely blown apart" in the debris.
Between 150 and 200 persons were in the building when the blast occurred, spitting bricks and glass through the air for a block. The firm is located in an area of light industry.
A witness, Forrest Woods said he saw "people running around with their clothes burned off."
Killed was ROBERT LONG, 54, of Chicago.
Lester Flowers, chief of the Lincolnwood Police Department, said 31 persons were injured, several critically.
Quinn said the plant's function involved a "chemical coating and plating process." He said an investigation into the type of chemicals used may bring out the cause of the explosion.
The blast severely damaged the front portion of the building. Herbert Johnson, company president, declined to make an estimate of damage, but one fire department official said the blast caused $65,000 damage. Flying glass and bricks also broke windows in nearby buildings and cars.
The building is two stories high in the front and one story in the rear.
Fire Chief Raymond H. Redick of nearby Skokie said when he arrived "we found one section (of the building) disintegrated, cries of agony came from all over the place."
Redick said, "We couldn't see anybody. They were all buried."
Henry Breidenbach, president of Breidenbach Mfg. Co., was sitting in his office across the street when the blast sent a brick flying through one wall of the room. It narrowly missed Breidenbach and embedded itself in the opposite wall.
The front of the National Die building was left a mass of twisted steel beams, and heaps of bricks and glass.
The first policeman at the scene said he had just passed the plant when he heard the explosion, saw the smoke, and radioed for all possible aid to be sent to the scene.
"When I got back to the factory," said patrolman Donald Shetler of Lincolnwood, "there was pandemonium. Injured people were helping each other out of the building and others were lying hurt on the lawn and screaming."
Lincolnwood has no fire depaertment and depends upon Chicago for fire protection. The Chicago fire chief said the building has a record of eight fires this year -- none of them serious -- including a rubbish fire outside earlier Wednesday.

Fond Du Lac Commonwealth Reporter Wisconsin 1968-07-18