Galena Park, TX Grain Elevator Explosion, Feb 1976

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Galena Park, Tex. (AP) -- Firemen and rescue crews searched today for more victims at the site of a waterfront grain elevator explosion which left at least six persons dead and another 25 injured.
Several victims were believed buried Sunday under broken concrete and twisted steel.
"We are certain we will find others dead but we don't know how many," said Paul Carr, a Houston Fire Department spokesman. "It may be a couple of days before we can dig down and find the others.
They may be buried under 60 feet of rubble."
Officials said they were uncertain how many were in the area at the time of the early afternoon blast.
The blast blew out "almost all the glass in downtown Galena Park," said one official, and police were pestered by looters who took advantage
of broken shop windows. Debris was hurled over a broad waterfront area along the Houston Ship Channel.
Firemen blamed the explosion -- heard 10 miles away in industrial Pasadena -- on grain dust possibly ignited by a welder's torch. Grain dust is highly combustible.
Carr said a welding crew was working in the area at the time. "We can't account for them and think they must be under the rubble," he said. "Their trucks and equipment are totally destroyed and under those rocks."
Five bodies were found Sunday and a sixth man died at a hospital.
Three of the dead were identified as W. L. HENDRY, DELBERT PAYNE, 46, and LARRY LOPEZ, 9, son of one of the injured men. Another man was in critical condition.
Truitt Kennedy, executive vice-president of Goodpasture Inc., owner of the elevator, estimated damage at $50 million.
The explosion and fires threatened briefly the numerous petroleum and chemical plants along the busy Houston Ship Channel, Coast Guardsmen said. Two fireboats went to the scene to quench pier fires.
Galena Park is nearly surrounded by Houston.
Firemen worked through the night, wading knee deep through spilled grain and pouring water on stubborn but contained fires. Heavy equipment was moved into the area to remove rubble.
The force of the explosion gouged out chunks of concrete and steel, heaving them into smaller storage tanks nearby which burst into flames.
The main grain elevator is approximately 500 yards long and 100 feet tall. About half of it was destroyed.
After the explosion which came during a grain loading operation, three ships docked near the elevator were towed into the ship channel to avoid fires. One of them, the Greek cargo ship Silver Ocean, suffered minor damage the Coast Guard reported.
Houston is one of the nation's leading grain ports, but this was the first major explosion and fire ina a number of years.

The Lima News Ohio 1976-02-23



Galena Park, Tex. (AP) -- Searchers sifted through tons of concrete and steel rubble today looking for two men believed to have been killed in a grain elevator explosion that left seven known dead.
The bodies of seven persons who died in the Sunday blast at the massive Goodpasture Inc. grain elevator have been recovered.
Three other persons remained hospitalized with injuries suffered in the explosion that caused an estimated $50 million in damages.
A grain fire touched off by the explosion that hurled debris several hundred yards continued to smolder late Monday.
Truitt Kennedy, executive vice president and general manager of Goodpasture, made the $50 million loss estimate which includes about $20 million worth of spoiled and burned grain.
More than half of the 1,800-foot long, 130-foot high Houston Ship Channel elevator was leveled. Kennedy said there would be no effort to salvage the elevator, but that it would have to be rebuilt.
Authorities said two persons were still missing and believed to have died in the explosion. They are ROBERTO DE LA ROSA, 30, a lab worker for Houston Merchants Exchange, and ROBERT BLACK, 32, a Goodpasture employe.
A seventh body, that of CARL W. BOOZER, 46, of Pasadena, was found early Monday and investigators identified a body found Sunday night as that of W. J. POLLEY, 38, of Houston. POLLEY
was a Goodpasture maintenance man and BOOZER was a grain inspector for Houston Merchants Exchange.
Other bodies identified were those of LARRY LAWRENCE LOPEZ, 9, of Channellview, son of a Goodpasture employe; DELBERT PAYNE, 46; JOSE E. GARZA, 37, JESUS LEAL, 36, all of Galena Park and Goodpasture employes; and WILLIAM L. HENDRY, 58, of Houston, an exporting
company foreman.

Big Spring Herald Texas 1976-02-24



Houston (UPI) -- A rescue crew carefully searching through tons of broken concrete and grain Tuesday located the eighth victim of an explosion which ripped the Goodpasture Inc. grain elevator plant.
The body was identified as ROBERTO DE LA ROSA, according to a Goodpasture official. DE LA ROSA, 30, and ROBERT BLACK, 32, had been missing since the Sunday afternoon blowup. BLACK, a maintenance man for Goodpasture, still was missing. DE LA ROSA was a lab worker for Houston Merchants Exchange.
For two days, bulldozers partly cleared the blast site but avoided two crumbling sections of a 10 story, bombed-out elevator structure.
Fire flared sporadically in the buildings. Water from three pumper trucks and a fireboat poured water on them.
Although it was believed at least one more victim would be found, officials had not determined the cause of the blast which occurred at the plant which borders the Houston Ship Channel in suburban Galena Park.
Houston Mayor Fred Hofheinz said when the city takes up the question of annexing the ship channel
area next year, fire protection of the ship channel industries should be considered.
Under a 10-year contract which ends this year, the industries paid the city fees in liou of taxes. The fees, which totaled $3.1 million last year, gave industries a tax break as an inducement for locating there. But the fee, according to the city, did not cover fire protection.

Galveston Daily News Texas 1976-02-25


Grain Explosion

I owned a poolhall next door called Sunshine Palace. I also worked at Mercy Corps and was on duty when it happened. All of our billiard tables were damaged as well as our glass. Very sad day for Galena Park and the families of the deceased.

Mushroom Cloud of Galena Park explosion

I was 7 years old & playing in my backyard in Pasadena in Park View Estates, which was sandwiched between Sam Rayburn High School and Memorial Stadium. I don't recall hearing an explosion but I did see the mushroom cloud go up. I knew that it wasn't from an ordinary fire. I'd seen a house fire in the neighborhood before and there wasn't a mushroom cloud over the burning house. I think I might have also seen some footage of a nuclear explosion because I remember thinking that it was a bad cloud, and I was really scared. I ran & told my mom and pointed to our big bay kitchen window where it was clearly visible in the distance...and rising. It got bigger & bigger as I watched. I was worried that we were next. My mom called some neighbors and friends and told them about it. Then she asked if they could see anything & did they know anything. I don't remember what happened after that except that I kept watching it as it went higher and higher and eventually dispersed. And I remember that I kept worrying about it for at least a few hours & maybe a day or two after that. My parents never explained it to me. I must have realized things were okay & stopped worrying about it. But I never forgot the mushroom cloud.

As I got older & wiser, I wondered if it had been a nuclear explosion...until I became even older & wiser than that & realized it couldn't have been nuclear because there'd have been fallout, etc. But I still had no idea what else could make a mushroom cloud like that. Eventually, I forgot all about it & life went on. But recently, I'd been reminiscing about my childhood and quickly realized that I could probably find the answer on the Internet. Voila, I'm here. It took a few tries, though. For one thing, I didn't remember the date or how old I was at the time. Just the mushroom cloud, the direction that I'd seen it, and the fact that I'd been pretty young, putting it in the early to mid 70s.

At first I thought perhaps a jet had crashed at nearby Hobby Airport or maybe Ellington Air Force Base (as it was then known). But there was no crash that fit the time period. From my memories, I determined that the explosion had been to the north of us and maybe a little to the west, which meant it couldn't be Ellington (due southwest) and was unlikely to be Hobby (due almost dead west from Pasadena). This also meant that it could be along the Ship Channel or from a chemical plant in the area. But those either didn't fit the time period or the weather at the time. It had been a beautiful clear day with no clouds or rain, and was during daylight hours, which ruled out the '70s gas explosions in the area as well. So I finally checked out the grain explosions and bingo.

I wish my parents had explained it to me, or at least explained that we weren't in any danger. Little 7-yr old boys might be thrilled to see such a thing but it scared the little 7-yr girl that I was at the time. Ironically, my dad had witnessed the worst explosion in the area years ago - the 1947 Texas City dock explosion (disaster). He was only 14 at the time. He told me about hearing the explosion & seeing a big cloud (probably mushroom-shaped) and then watching fire truck after fire truck, sirens blaring, as they passed his high school (old Milby) and headed to Texas City to help out. They didnt even wait for a call - just the size of the sound & the cloud told them that Texas City was going to need every firefighter they could get.

Galena Park, Goodpasture Grain elevator explosion, 1976

I was on my way to work at Goodpasture when the explosion occurred. I was driving on the 610 bridge when the silos blew up. I felt the force of the explosion and saw a giant mushroom cloud composed mostly of grain swirling above the grain elevator. The cloud might have been a 1,000 feet tall. Suddenly, the cloud stopped it's tornado-like spin and grain rained down on the elevator.

To say the least, I was in shock and stopped my car asap. After about 5 minutes of calming myself, I went to the office to hold down the fort until the Calvary arrived.

This is the one time I was grateful that the SP RR was running late. I too, could have been a victim if I had been in the HME lab picking up test results. Yes, I believe there is a higher power. I am walking evidence.

I remember this well!

When this happened, I lived in Jacinto City, about 5 miles to the north of Galena Park. I was 6-years-old. I remember the explosion shook our whole house, and made our front screen door pop open about half-way, then close back. The image is engraved on my mind. Walking through the living room, hearing and feeling the explosion, and seeing the screen door come open! To this day, I had no idea that one of the victims was that 9-year-old boy, as I read the news article here for the first time. Not sure why a young child would be at the grain elevator, but that's not for my judgement. The new grain elevator, which was rebuilt, still stands today. Driving by the location, I still get chills knowing that lives were taken from there. All were so young to perish so soon.