Rifton Glen, NY Powder Plant Explosion, Mar 1896
POWDER PLANT BLOWS UP.
FIVE MEN KILLED BY EXPLOSION NEAR KINGSTON.
TWO MILLS OF THE LAFLIN & RAND COMPANY DESTROYED -- A GLAZING MILL WAS THE FIRST TO GO AND A DRYING HOUSE NEXT -- ONLY ONE OF THE BODIES RECOGNIZABLE.
Kingston, N.Y., March 18. -- The entire powder making plant of the Laflin & Rand Powder Company, six miles from here, was wrecked by explosions this morning. The shock was felt for a radius of twenty miles around. There were two explosions, the first in the glazing house, and the second, immediately after, in the drying house, and both buildings were totally destroyed and five men were killed.
They are LAWRENCE PETERSON, 42 years old, married, dryhouse worker.
JOHN JONES, 32 years old, married, dryhouse worker.
SOLOMON SMALLEY, 34 years old, married, glazier.
EMERY DECKER, 29 years old, married, packer.
NAMOR DECKER, 21 years old, unmarried, packer.
The first shock came as the church clock was striking 11. It was like an earthquake. Not more than two seconds after another was felt, and then a dull roar filled the air. Over the powder plant a huge column of black smoke rose slowly in the air, and the word went about: "Rifton Mill has gone again."
Drs. H. C. Keator and Hasbrouck immediately set out in a sleigh for Rifton Glen, as there are no physicians there, but there was nothing for them to do, as no others than the dead men had suffered any serious harm from the explosion. Of those killed four were so completely destroyed that no recognizable traces of them have been found. PETERSON'S headless body was recovered 200 yards from the drying house.
What caused the disaster is not known. None of the men in either building escaped to give any clue to it. The air in the glazing house was full of particles of powder, and the smallest spark might be sufficient to ignite the explosive. About sixty men were at work in the half dozen buildings in the ravine at 11 o'clock. There was no warning before the shock. There never is in these explosions. Something causes the deadly spark, and those who were near enough to know what it was never lived to tell. Many of the men were momentarily stunned by the concussion. Those who were not rushed out of the buildings. Just as the second shock came they were flung to the ground, and when they arose again a heavy black pall hung over the place where the two buildings had been. On all sides pieces of wood and metal were raining down. Some of the men who were near the road saw a large dark object shoot up over a belt of trees which stands within a few hundred feet of the mills. It landed not far from them, and running to it, they found that it was a man's body. The head was gone, but by the clothing they recognized it as that of PETERSON.
For a minute after the explosion the whole colony was in terror, for the danger was great that some of the other buildings would follow. Then, led by the assistant superintendent, who was in charge, Superintendent Hardy being away, the men hurried through the smoke to the scene of the explosion. Where the buildings had stood was a mass of splinters, nothing more. It was useless to try to find anything that could be identified, and the men turned their attention to the vicinity of the buildings, in the hopes that other bodies besides PETERSON'S had been thrown clear of the ruins, but they found nothing. Probably the bodies were blown into thousands of fragments. The men explaini the condition PETERSON'S body by the theory that he was near a door or window and was blown through, or that possibly he had warning of the impending disaster, having seen the spark that caused it and ran out the door before the shock came.
It is supposed that about twenty tons of the powder exploded. It was all black blasting or giant powder, an extremely powerful explosive. The destroyed buildings were situated in the centre of the ravine, seventy-five yards apart. They were about 60 x 30 feet each and one story high.
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