Middlesex, NJ Paint Plant Explosion, Feb 1985


Middlesex, N.J. (AP) -- Smoke seeped from the rubble of a paint factory today after an explosion that killed a man and injured 14 other people sent a "huge ball of flames" 50 feet high and threatened to ignite a nearby chemical plant.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Alan Rockoff said it was "miraculous" that most of the 18 plant workers escaped injury Tuesday at the Chemray Coatings Corp. plant. Half of them were outside on a coffee break when the blast tore through the two-story brick building at about 10 a.m.
Ten hours later, authorities announced the blast had killed a man who Rockoff said apparently was a missing duplicating machine serviceman believed to "have been caught in the fire."
One of the injured was thrown through a window by the force of the blast -- and neaby businesses and homes were evacuated as the sky filled with black smoke and flames.
Police Sgt. Gregory Sharkey said smoke continued to come out of the rubble today and a few firefighters remained on the scene.
High winds and pelting rain hampered firefighting efforts and drove the flames to nearby buildings, damaging a radiator repair shop and a tile company.
But Rockoff said firefighters kept the blaze from spreading to a nearby Union Carbide plant where drums of chemicals were stored.
"It could have set off a chain reaction," he said.
The blast occurred in this borough about 15 miles southwest of Newark and the fire was brought under control at 3:10 p.m., two hours before the evacuees were permitted to return.
The cause of the explosion was under investigation but officials said it appeared it occurred in a room where chemicals are mixed to produce paint.
The plant produced paint, varnishes, enamels and lacquers.

Kokomo Tribune Indiana 1985-02-13