Burlington, IA Ammunition Plant Explosion, July 1966


Burlington, Ia. -- (AP) -- Four women employes were injured, one critically, Friday when an explosion occurred in a section of the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, located west of here on Highway 34.
Plant officials identified the injured as:
MRS. DONNA ETTER, 21, of Wapello.
MRS. BETTY FOUTS, 33, Burlington.
MRS. LOLA REYNOLDS, 24, Burlington.
MRS. SHEILA MAYO, 19, Dallas City, Illinois.
Officials said "about 20" other women were treated for shock at the plant dispensary and then sent home.
The four injured were taken to Burlington Hospital where a spokesman reported MRS. ETTER was in critical condition after six hours of surgery. She suffered injuries to her back, arms and legs and head.
The hospital said MRS. REYNOLDS suffered multiple puncture wounds to her chest and back and was in serious condition.
MRS. FOUTS was in fair condition with puncture wounds in the back and MRS. MAYO was reported in good condition suffering from shock.
George Mathes, information officer at the plant, said an explosion occurred at 8:45 a.m. on Line 9 in the plant. Mathes said it was not known immediately what quantity of explosive was involved.
Line 9 was described as a "percussion element line." where explosives were being processed prior to a loading operation into shells.
Mathes described the room where the women were working as about 40 feet by 20 feet.
The plant, operated for the Army by Mason and Hanger, Silas Mason Co., is known to do some classified armament work for the Atomic Energy Commission.
Mathes said the explosion came in an area where the work involves only conventional type shells.
Most of the plant's output is believed to be in artillery shells and rocket warheads.
Mathes said local plant officials will conduct an investigation of the cause of the explosion.
Safety factors are stressed in this work, company spokesmen have said.
For example anyone working on a shell line wears safety shoes which have conductive rubber soles and heels to dissipate static electricity.
Soles and heels are glued on, not nailed. Visitors to the lines either don the shoes or have the bottoms of their shoes covered with tape.
All workers wear coveralls, called "power uniforms." This outfit has no pockets and buttons are made of plastic. Women wear cotton underclothing rather than nylon.
There have been several serious accidents at the plant.
On Dec. 12, 1941, a blast on a shell line killed 13, injured 40; on Mar. 5, 1942, an explosion killed 20, injured 50, andin June, 1958, a shell explosion killed four.

Des Moines Register Iowa 1966-07-02