Tucson, AZ Cleaning Facility Explosion, Mar 1963

BLAST SITE RUBBLE SIFTED FOR CLUES TO CATASTROPHE.

DEATH TOLL CLIMBS TO 6; 36 INJURED.

Casualty List.
Here is a list of the dead and injured in yesterday's explosion at the Supreme Cleaners. The names of the dead were released by the Reilly Funeral Home and those of the injured by St. Mary's Hospital, Tucson Medical Center and the Pima County Hospital.
Dead:
FRANCIS EDWARD CONYERS, 41, of Rte. 1, Box
604, North Contaro Road.
MRS. VIDILIA C. KINGERY, 33, of 373 E. Navajo Road.
MRS. CARMEN G. TOVAR, 32, of 1072 N. Contzen Ave.
MRS. CECILIA H. AROS, 19, of 412 W. 5th St.
MARTIN SCHWELLNUS, 52, of 434 E. 9th. St.
JOHN E. NICHOLS, 23, of 818 W. Utah St.
Injured:
(At. St. Mary's Hospital)
JOSIE SOLIZ, 42, of 2321 N. Stone Ave., bruises, condition satisfactory.
GLORIA MADERO, 19, of 494 S. Convent Ave., bruises, satisfactory.
NATIVIDAD MADERO, 41, (GLORIA'S mother), 494
S. Convent Ave., bruises, satisfactory.
MRS. CARMEN PEDROZA, 21, 443 1/2 E. 32nd St., shock, satisfactory.
CELINA DUARTE, 24, of 1318 W. Niagara, fractured leg, bruises, serious.
OLIVE AROS, 18, of 412 W. 5th St., fractured skull and jaw, critical (sister of CECILIA AROS who was killed).
BERNARD OLIVER, 38, of 1613 Via Honda, cuts, satisfactory.
HARRIS SALONIC, 41, of 2411 E. Waverly St., co-owner of the plant, severe scalp cut, 35 per cent burned, critical.
CARMEN RAMOS, 25, of 320 W. Laguna St., fractured ankle and elbow and possible skull fracture, bruises, cuts, serious.
Treated, Released.
(At St. Mary's Hospital)
ANNA HUGHES, 50, of 2225 N. Tucson Blvd.
LUCY VILLA, 37, of 1643 W. Ontario St.
PAUL KAUFMAN, 43, of 2573 Calle Tovar.
MRS. THERESA OROSCO, 41, of 31 W. ALturas St.
GLORIA MUNOZ, of 139 W. Simpson St.
TERRY MANGE, of 136 W. 17th St.
DORA MUNOZ, 27, of 5935 S. Morris Blvd.
OLGA MARTINEZ, 23, of 415 S. Arizona Ave.
RICHARD STUART, of 1615 W. Alturas St.
JEANNETTE BARRETT, 27, of 102 E. Alturas St.
(At Tucson Medical Center)
LOUIS CARRILLO, 36, of 6317 Calie Orion.
VENTURA URQUIDEZ, 22, of 203 W. Sahuaro St.
BERTHA MAHAN, 39, of 1631 N. McKinley Aven.
CORONADO NOEHMI, 25, of 148 E. 24th St.
SERAFINA HERNANDEZ, 28, of 538 W. 17th St.
J. ANDRIETTE O'CONNOR, 22, of 2833 Rickey Vista.
BETTY J. RUIZ, 33, of 925 S. 8th Ave.
ROBERT L. CLARK, 50, of Star Motel & Trailer Court, a passerby, 3465 E. Benson Hwy.
(At Pima County Hospital)
ROBERT NASBY, 25, of 4310 E. Copper St.

As the death toll climbed to six a contingent of city investigators moved today into the rubble of Supreme Cleaners to sift out clues to yesterday's disastrous explosion.
Gov. Paul Fannin, arrived from Phoenix and joined Mayor Lew Davis in a heavy-hearted look at the tragic aftermath.
A spokesman for Supreme ventured a preliminary estimate of the loss at approximately $300,000.
Besides the six dead, 28 persons were sent to hospitals with injuries, some critical, and eight others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.
One of the victims, SCHWELLNUS, was not a Supreme employe. A union bricklayer, he was making repairs to the basement floor when the explosion came. He had begun the repair job a couple of days before and was scheduled to complete it by 11 a.m. yesterday. He was applying final touches when the blast came a few minutes after 11.
SCHWELLNUS was a German soldier during World War II but later became a naturalized citizen.
Thin wisps of smoke rising from the plant today were an acrid reminder of yesterday's stunning tragedy.
The curious were still coming this morning to view the wreckage, though crowds were far thinner than yesterday's peak estimated at 2,500.
The plant at 2332 N. Stone Ave. suffered almost a 100 per cent casualty list -- dead or injured -- of the employes on duty at the time of the devastating blast shortly after 11 a.m. About 40 persons were believed at work at the time.
Battalion Chief Howard M. Danielson, chief of the city's fire prevention bureau, vowed today, "We will search the wreckage from one end to the other to find the cause."
The investigating team of 12 men includes two firemen, two city detectives, two public works department employes and six members of the city inspection division.
"We have nothing definite now," Danielson said. But he did have theories.
"To me, it looks like some sort of a gas explosion," said the fire department official. "It could have been gasoline fumes, sewer gas or natural gas," he said.
For the time being, he ruled out clearning solvents as the probable cause.
He said, "The chief solvent used at that plant was perchlorethylene, a non-flammable, non-explosive fluid. We think there also was a smaller tank of a kerosene like solvent."
"Fumes from that, in the right mixture, could explode under certain conditions, but it's not very probable."
Two employes yesterday had said they believed a boiler explosion touched off the catastrophe.
But Danielson said, "As far as we've been able to determine, all boilers are still intact."
He said the explosion apparently came in the older part of the building, constructed in 1946. The plant has been extensively remodeled since then.
A Tucson fireman since 1940, Danielson said, "I have never seen anything as bad as that explosion."
A city detective, Louis Spalla, said after looking over the concrete, stucco and steel shreds of the plant that arson or foul play does not appear to be involved.
One of the critically injured was HARRIS SALONIC,
of 2414 E. Waverly St., a co-owner. He was trapped for more than an hour in a corner of the basement, pinned by heavy debris. "It's a miracle he got out alive," said a man who had given him first aid when he was brought out.
Suddenly, human beings were being trajected out into Stone Avenue and Grant Road. Windows of stores at the nearby Grant-Stone Shopping Center were being sucked out. An occupied car was being blown 50 feet across the street. A 220-pound slab of concrete sailed through the air into another building.
The structure was splintering. Cries and screams were coming out of the rubble.
Almost instantly, it seemed, citizens at work nearby or passing by were pitching headlong into rescue work. Police, firemen and rescue workers of almost every sort were arriving quickly. Many priests were suddenly there, consoling the injured and preparing to administer the last rites to the dying.
This morning, six blocks south of the scene of the catastrophe, John Thomas, of 1601 N. Stone Ave., strolled in his back yard and found a small momento of the explosion. It was a $14.54 payroll check dated March 5, 1948, cashed, canceled and undoubtedly spent long ago by an employe named Jennie Ward.
From Supreme today came an assurance to customers whose clothing was obliterated, ruined or lost in the blast:
"All customers' clothers are fully insured. Claim forms are now available at all 15 Supreme Cleaner branches throughout the city."
All dry cleaning and laundry services of the firm will continue without interruption at Supreme's 15 branch locations, a company spokesman said.

Tucson Daily Citizen Arizona 1963-03-30

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Comments

Explosion

My Grandmother, Ysabel Fimbres, whose name is not mentioned worked at the Supreme Cleaners and told me it was the worst thing she ever experienced. She said there were bodies all over the place.