Texarkana, TX Ammunition Depot Explosion, Feb 1967


Texarkana, Tex. (AP) -- A 105mm shell blew up as workers loaded it with high explosive and 11 persons suffered fatal injuries as searing flames followed the blast at the Army's giant ammunition depot west of here Wednesday night.
Thirteen other persons suffered injuries, but only four of them were kept in hospitals overnight.
The 11th death occurred at a hospital early today, more than seven hours after the assembly line explosion.
"We're pretty sure that's all," the commander of the semisecret installation Lt. Col. Duane Harris, said after firemen finished searching the blackened ruins
more than three hours later.
The dead and injured were civilian employes in the Lone Star wing of the huge arsenal, which manufactures and stores ammunition for the Army.
The list of dead as identified by funeral homes in last night's explosion at the Lone Star ammunition plant:
EUGENE B. RUSSELL, 18, Clarksville.
CLARENCE G. McDONALD, 18, Texarkana, Ark.
DAVID SKELTON, 19, Texarkana, Tex.
MRS. MARIE JONES, 44, Linden.
A man named McCOY, Maud.
MRS. FLEMING, New Boston.
Two young men not yet identified.
A man not yet identified.
"A ball of fire went right down the line and several people's clothing caught on fire," said one witness, who works in a high-security area and did not want to be quoted by name.
The blast occurred at 10:30 p.m. and the fire burned fiercely until it was controlled about 12:15 a.m. destroying the roof of the tile building.
Extreme heat and a danger of further explosions kept investigators from entering for more than an hour.
"I wouldn't even try to estimate the damage at this point," Harris said, adding it may take days to determine what happened and evaluate the loss.
He said the explosion apparently occurred while an employe was loading a shell with high explosive. Such a projectile is about two feet long and weighs 33 pounds.
There are 7,000 employes at the depot, which is one of the largest such plants in the nation.
Fifteen persons were at work on the loading line where the explosion occurred and others among the dead and injured were in the immediate vicinity,
Harris said.
The depot's Lone Star wing is 10 miles west of Texarkana on U.S. 2. It is in Zone E of the sprawling military reservation, which the commandant said was being blocked off while other operations continued today.
This was the second major explosion at the facility. One employe died and 21 were injured in a blast July 8, 1963.
Sheriff's officers quickly diverted all other traffic from the highway between the depot and Texarkana to clear the way for ambulances shuttling back and forth Wednesday night.

Abilene Reporter-News Texas 1967-02-16