Hawthorne, NJ Plant Explosion, Feb 1967
FEAR 11 DEAD AS BLASTS RIP N.J. PLANT.
TRAGEDY AT HAWTHORNE -- RESCUERS SEARCH FOR MISSING IN TANGLED WRECKAGE.
Hawthorne, N.J. (UPI) -- Rescue workers bulldozed through tons of twisted girders and shattered brickwork today searching for victims of a series of fiery explosions that ripped apart a chemical complex, presumably killing 11 persons trapped beneath the tangled wreckage.
Working in the glare of floodlights, disaster crews early this morning recoverd the body of one man from the debris of the Morningstar Paisley Division of the International Latex Corp. The victim was not identified pending the arrival of a coroner.
Wives and children of some of the missing men waited in driving snow through the night and early morning while rescuers dug through the ruins of the plant, blasted apart Friday near the noon hour.
Half of the 16 persons injured in the tragedy were hospitalized today, several in serious condition.
Standing in sub-freezing cold through most of the night while 150 rescuers picked through the smouldering ruins, Mayor LOUIS BAY II said the victims faced "certain cremation" when the explosions ripped through the plant.
"I'm sure we will not find them alive," he added grimly.
The enormity of the ruins made recovery operations difficult.
The plant manufactured preservatives for foodstuffs and adhesive materials.
The first explosion thundered through a three-story building in the block-long, L-shaped complex. Other blasts followed and the raging flames swept the rest of the plant, which included an attached one-story structure and a separate one-story building.
What touched off the explosions was a mystery.
"We are completely puzzled by this," said MAX FELLER, executive in the firm's New York City office. "The most explosive things we manufacture are food preservatives made from ground starch. How inflammable is starch?"
Another report said the explosions might have started in an oven used to roast corn starch and make dextrine from it. It said accumulated dust in the area could have caused a spontaneous explosion.
HARRY SHORTWAY, an off-duty policeman from Ridgewood, N.J., raced into the three-story building while explosions were still popping and bricks flying. As he went in, a man ran out afire, screaming. Firemen directed hoselines on him to put out the flames.
Lebanon Daily News Pennsylvania 1967-02-18
The three men whose bodies were found Saturday were maintenance workers. A German shepherd dog led searchers to them in the remains of what had been a maintenance room.
The victims were THOMAS CARROLL, 44, of Clifton, father of four; L. R. ROBINSON, 59, of Hawthorne, father of two; and GUSTAVE TILSTRA, 59, of Paterson, survived by his widow.
"It's a heart-sickening situation all the way around,"
Mayor Bay said Saturday. "You think of the poor people who left someone there, and you just feel inadequate."
Eighteen others were injured, 11 of them being hospitalized, including four women.
"Don't leave me. Please don't leave me," pleaded SANDY KANTER, a pretty, 19-year-old laboratory worker, when she was discovered Friday pinned in the debris shortly after the initial explosion.
Two rescuers, despite the imminent possibility of another explosion, got her free and carried her to safety. There were numerous smaller explosions in the building in the first few hours of the tragedy.
At Paterson General Hospital, MISS KANTER was reported in good condition after being treated for burns.
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!