Yardville, NJ Chemical Plant Explosion, May 1916

CHEMICAL EXPLOSION KILLS 3, INJURES 6.

FIRE AT OIL CLOTH WORKS NEAR TRENTON STARTED BY GASOLINE FUMES.

1,000 PERSONS IN DANGER.

THREE-STORY BRICK BUILDING NEARBY DEMOLISHED BY FORCE OF EXPLOSION -- SPARKS BURN MANY.

Trenton, N. J., May 2. -- An explosion of chemicals, followed by a fire, at the plant of the Chandler Oilcloth Works, at Yardville, three miles from here, tonight resulted in the death of three men, serious injuries to six others -- two of whom are not expected to live -- and caused property damage estimated to be more than $20,000. The explosion was said to have been caused by fumes from several hundred gallons of gasoline stored in an anteroom just off the drying department.
The dead men, all of whom were at work in the drying department, caught the full force of the blast and their bodies were blown for considerable distances. They are:
EDWARD FORKER, 30, laborer, Yardville.
HARRY TAYLOR, 35, dryer, Trenton.
PETER WILLIAMS, 35, dryer, Yardville.
The injured who are in St. Francis Hospital are:
NIMROD DEWYER.
THOMAS PERRY.
ALBERT MADDOCK.
ERNEST FLIMIDT.
ANDREW ANISICK.
GEORGE HOWELL.
Those most severely injured suffered from broken legs and arms and cuts and bruises all over their bodies.
The dead and injured were buried beneath wreckage from the explosion and had to be dug out by workmen who escaped injury and men in the vicinity that came to assist them.
Immediately after the explosion the families of the employes rushed to the scene, and considerable excitement prevailed when they tried to force their way into the building to find the missing men.
There were about twenty-five men at work in the plant tonight finishing up a rush order. Of that number, only eight were at work in the drying establishment, the remainder being employed in other buildings of the works which, however, stood dangerously close to the dryhouse.
It is not known as yet whether a spark from faulty machinery or a match carelessly thrown down caused the collected gasoline fumes to detonate the large stock of chemicals. One of the injured men before he lapsed into unconsciousness said that the first intimation of the explosion had been a thin spiral of smoke that curled from the floor near the gasoline storage. This had been followed instantly by a splash and a roar, and the front of the building had dropped away as though by magic.
The entire force of the explosion was directed toward the front of the building. The three-story brick building opposite the Chandler Works, which was occupied by the dry goods firm of ANDERSON Brothers, was demolished. The structure was lifted from its foundation and distributed in small pieces in an open lot on the street in the rear.
Other buildings of the oilcloth plant were either entirely leveled or badly damaged, and soon after the blow-up flames began to shoot from the ruins.
Ambulances and police from this city had already been sent out to the scene, and when the fire began to threaten adjoining property the Trenton Fire Department rushed most of its apparatus out to the plant.
Even then the flames, fed by the highly inflammable substances used at the works, continued to gain headway, but after a two-hour fight the fire was announced under control.
Approximately 1,000 people employed or living in nearby buildings, who had remained in their places to watch the fire, were in danger twice when the wind shifted. The police finally cleared out all tenants within a radius of ten blocks of the fire, but not before thirty persons had been burned by showers of sparks blown about by the shifting winds. All of those burned were treated by ambulance surgeons and sent home.

The New York Times New York 1916-05-03