Hawthorne, NJ Plant Explosion, Feb 1967

Plant After The Explosions Clearing The Debris



Hawthorne, N.J. (UPI) -- Rescue workers bulldozed through tons of twisted girders and shattered brickwork today searching for victims of a series of fiery explosions that ripped apart a chemical complex, presumably killing 11 persons trapped beneath the tangled wreckage.
Working in the glare of floodlights, disaster crews early this morning recoverd the body of one man from the debris of the Morningstar Paisley Division of the International Latex Corp. The victim was not identified pending the arrival of a coroner.
Wives and children of some of the missing men waited in driving snow through the night and early morning while rescuers dug through the ruins of the plant, blasted apart Friday near the noon hour.
Half of the 16 persons injured in the tragedy were hospitalized today, several in serious condition.
Standing in sub-freezing cold through most of the night while 150 rescuers picked through the smouldering ruins, Mayor LOUIS BAY II said the victims faced "certain cremation" when the explosions ripped through the plant.
"I'm sure we will not find them alive," he added grimly.
The enormity of the ruins made recovery operations difficult.
The plant manufactured preservatives for foodstuffs and adhesive materials.
The first explosion thundered through a three-story building in the block-long, L-shaped complex. Other blasts followed and the raging flames swept the rest of the plant, which included an attached one-story structure and a separate one-story building.
Seek Cause.
What touched off the explosions was a mystery.
"We are completely puzzled by this," said MAX FELLER, executive in the firm's New York City office. "The most explosive things we manufacture are food preservatives made from ground starch. How inflammable is starch?"
Another report said the explosions might have started in an oven used to roast corn starch and make dextrine from it. It said accumulated dust in the area could have caused a spontaneous explosion.
HARRY SHORTWAY, an off-duty policeman from Ridgewood, N.J., raced into the three-story building while explosions were still popping and bricks flying. As he went in, a man ran out afire, screaming. Firemen directed hoselines on him to put out the flames.

Lebanon Daily News Pennsylvania 1967-02-18

Additional Information:
The three men whose bodies were found Saturday were maintenance workers. A German shepherd dog led searchers to them in the remains of what had been a maintenance room.
The victims were THOMAS CARROLL, 44, of Clifton, father of four; L. R. ROBINSON, 59, of Hawthorne, father of two; and GUSTAVE TILSTRA, 59, of Paterson, survived by his widow.
"It's a heart-sickening situation all the way around,"
Mayor Bay said Saturday. "You think of the poor people who left someone there, and you just feel inadequate."
Eighteen others were injured, 11 of them being hospitalized, including four women.
"Don't leave me. Please don't leave me," pleaded SANDY KANTER, a pretty, 19-year-old laboratory worker, when she was discovered Friday pinned in the debris shortly after the initial explosion.
Two rescuers, despite the imminent possibility of another explosion, got her free and carried her to safety. There were numerous smaller explosions in the building in the first few hours of the tragedy.
At Paterson General Hospital, MISS KANTER was reported in good condition after being treated for burns.


Hawthorne ...Morning Star Paisely Fire

I was a Mailman delivering mail on 2nd Ave...which is 3 blocks away from this explosion. I heard this loud boom....and then saw this plume of dark smoke. I drove over to the site and being an ex Hawthorne Fireman...I tried to help. The place was full of white dust. I met some guy coming down the stairs....who told us to get out of the building. Because if that dust explodes it will take this whole building down.

I then fought the fire with Domonic Mealy...and several others I can't remember their names. The 50 gal. drums kept exploding...a good 50 or more feet in the air. I had to get back to delivering the mail after awhile. I also was talking to Policeman Soder...who was yelling for some kind of a tool. I believe he freed a woman from under some rubble. I believe he got some kind of an award for this bravery. Sorry names leave me....with my 89 year age. But these were Fireman I knew while being a Fireman in Hawthorne...many years ago.
Sincerely yours,
Walter "Don" Stewart

I was 11 when...

I had just turned 11 when Hawthorne experienced this horrific event. I think all of Hawthorne turned out each night to process what had happened. When the explosion occurred, I watched smoke rise from the hill above Jefferson Elementary School during recess.

My Father Thomas Carroll died

My Father Thomas Carroll died in this explosion I never heard of a mass grave. I remember it like it was yesterday It was a Friday 2/17/67 I think I was 11 at the time But I remember every day I spent with him He died with five young children I know he had a good friend from work We called him Joe from farm Don't know why He will be in our hearts forever rest in peace Dad

George VanCampen

This is the explosion that took the life of my Grandfather,my mother Jean vanCampen Meyer confirmed it. He is buried at Fairlawn memorial Cemetery in Hawthorne with 2 other men.As horrific as it was these three men could not be identified so they were buried together.There is a picture of the memorial on Find a grave.com mem#16485409

Explosion in Hawthorne

I am positve this is where my grandfather George VanCampen died.I was 5 years old.My mother had to go identify what little was left of my Grandfather.He died feb 1967 in Hawthorne in an explosion so this has to be it. I was told he was buried in a mass grave in Hawthorne.I would like to find out the victim list and where the grave is to confirm.

I recall this as a small

I recall this as a small boy, but I thought it happened in May of 1968