Indian Trail, NC Chemical Plant Explosion, Nov 1980


Indian Trail, N.C. (UPI) -- A series of fiery explosions ripped through a chemical plant Wednesday injuring 55 persons, five of them critically.
Three other people were listed in serious condition
and at least 25 more were injured seriously enough to be hospitalized.
The explosions, which apparently started on an assembly line at the Radiator Specialty Co. plant, caved in the corrugated metal roof of the huge structure where about 300 people, mostly women, were employed.
The explosion and fire occurred just hours before workers were to have had a meal celebrating Thanksgiving.
The company manufactures a variety of chemicals, many of them in aerosol cans. Thousands of cans were left floating in water on the floor of the plant after firefighters brought the blaze under control.
"The fire started and it just went up and spread every damn where," said LESTER CULPEPPER, a supervisor who escaped with only minor injuries.
"People were running and burning .. several women were naked and screaming," he said.
CULPEPPER said one explosion occurred near him in an area where scales were being used to weigh products from the assembly line.
"I just heard a puff," he said. "I turned around to where this boy and girl were working. There was fire on the floor and on their clothes. I just ducked my head and run."
Hampton Funderburk, Union County fire inspector, said there was a small explosion on the assembly line and it set off two or three more explosions.
"I think there was four all together," he said.
Funderburk said chemicals apparently involved in the explosion were isobutane, used as a propellant in the aerosol cans, and propane.
SHERRY GAMBLE, standing with her mother outside Union Memorial Hospital, said she was working on an assembly line when she heard the first explosion.
"The fire was coming through," she said. "Two more girls were standing there screaming and I drug them out. I'll never go back."
Her mother, MARGIE FRENCH, said the plant was dangerous.
"She is not going back," MRS. FRENCH said.
"We might go on welfare but she ain't going back."

Chronicle Telegram Elyria Ohio 1980-11-27

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