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Weirton, WV Coke Ovens Explode, Dec 1972


Weirton, W. Va. (UPI) -- A company that built a
"showcase" coke plant that was ripped by a series of explosions said today that 19 workers were killed instead of the 21 it reported previously.
FRANK DAVIS, a Koppers Co. spokesman, said two workers who were believed among those killed were located at their homes. They had not reported for work at the plant site as first believed, he said.
"That was good news," DAVIS said.
Koppers built the plant on Brown Island in the middle of the Ohio River for Weirton Stell Co., a National Steel Corp. subsidiary, and a series of tests were being conducted Friday on a battery of coke ovens when the first blast occurred. Three other explosions followed, all within a half hour span.
A team of Koppers Co. investigators was at the site today trying to determine what caused the explosions which left one area of the plant a mass of twisted metal girders and sheet steel. Most of those killed were trapped under the mass of debris.
The plant was regarded as the world's most advanced in terms of production and pollution abatement equipment. A Koppers spokesman called the plant "the showcase of the steel industry."
The blasts, which occurred about 9:44 a.m. EST Friday, erupted in a "battery basement" where tests were being made before the ovens were fired up to begin making coke. The plane had a battery of 83 coke ovens being tested before the unit went into production at the end of this month.
"The blasts were so powerful the men never had a chance," said ROBERT D'AMMIDALLE, owner of a Steubenville ambulance service.
D'AMMIDALLE, 40, said he arrived at the scene to check on two of his employes working at the plant five minutes after the first, main blast.
"The victims were being thrown off the ground," he said.
D'AMMIDALLE said his two ambulance workers went about 15 feet into the plant shortly after the first explosion. "They came walking out with a man over each shoulder. They saved two men," he said of his employes, HARVEY TEMPLIN, 32, and JOHN BOWERS, 34, both of Steubenville.
Wearing gas masks, the three men went back into the plant in search of survivors. "We saw seven men lying on the floor partially covered with debris, and then there was a second explosion," D'AMMIDALLE said.
"Nine of the dead were found in one area. I think they were on a coffee break when the explosion occurred. There were arms missing. One man had his head missing. They were burnt to a crisp."
"I've been in this business since 1964 and never seen anything like it," D'AMMIDALLE said.
The dead and injured, most ot them employed by subcontractors at the plant, were taken to three area hospitals and rescue squads had to seal off virtually the entire island because the blast ruptured a coke over gas line. Digging through
"huge areas of concrete and brick" continued through the night, a Koppers spokesman said.
"We have accounted for everybody that we could detect was missing," he said.
It was not known exactly how many of the about 590 men working on the island were at the scene of the blasts. "We suspect most of the men in that area were casualties," the spokesman said.
Two persons were treated and released from Weirton General Hospital where most of the dead were taken. One worker was listed in satisfactory condition at St. John's Hospital, Steubenville, and the other seven injured were admitted to Ohio Valley Hospital, Steubenville, where only BERNARD EAFRATI, 54, of Weirton, was listed in cricital condition. The others were reported in good or satisfactory condition.

The Coshocton Tribune Ohio 1972-12-16

Pittsburgh -- (AP) -- Following is a complete list released by Koppers Construction Co. of those killed in Friday's explosion and fire at a coke plant building site in Weirton, W. Va.
Names are followed by hometowns and employers, where available.
S. E. MORGART, Steubenville, Ohio, Weirton Steel.
CHARLES BOWERS, Steubenville, Ohio, Arthur Bowers Contracting Inc.
JAMES BROWN, Ohio, Yobe Electrical Contracting Inc.
ARTHUR McCORT, no home town, Yobe.
ALBERT TUTTLE, no home town, George Hamilton Contracting Inc.
MIKE REPKO, no home town, Hamilton Inc.
EDWARD ARTHURS, Toronto, Ohio, Yobe.
LOU SOMMERS, no home town, Yobe.
HOWARD BRAY, no home town, Yobe.
WILLIAM KILMER, Steubenville, Ohio, hired from a local union hall.
RUSSELL OBER, no home town, Hamilton Inc.
DAVID VAN SICKLE, Wintersville, Ohio, Koppers.
KENNETH GAINES, no home town, Yobe.
JIM TUTTLE, no home town, Hamilton Inc.
ANDREW GUZ, Weirton, W. Va., Weirton Steel.
PAUL BYRENE, no home town, Hamilton, Inc.
JOHN TOMS, McKeesport, Koppers.
KENNETH HARRIS, no home town, hired from union hall.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, Pittsburgh area, Hamilton, Inc.
A spokesman for Koppers said eight men injured in the blast were all reported in good condition in Weirton area hospitals.

Gazette Mail Charleston West Virginia 1972-12-17


asbestos workers

They were all great people we lost

Incorrect name

The owner of the Steubenville Ambulance Service was Robert D'Anniballe

Misspelt Name Among the Victims

William Kliner (not Kilmer) was killed in the Dec. 1972 Weirton Steel Coke Plant Explosion. He was working on another part of Browns Island when the original explosion occurred; he then entered the mill and carried on worker to safety. As he returned to bring out yet another victim, the main blast occurred, killing Mr. Kliner.

article | by Dr. Radut