East Camden, AR Plant Explosion, Mar 1976
LIGHTNING-CAUSED PLANT EXPLOSION KILLS THREE.
East Camden, Ark. (AP) -- Rescuers continued the search today for a woman missing after an explosion at a munitions plant here that killed three of her co-workers and injured 21 others.
The firm that owns the plant, meanwhile, launched an investigation to explain how a lightning bolt could have triggered the explosion.
The plant was supposed to be protected against lightning.
The blast on Monday tore apart the Celesco Industries, Inc., facility, which manufactures explosive photo flash cartridges used in military reconnaissance planes. It was lunchtime, and only 35 of the 200 workers employed at the plant were inside.
In the hours after the initial blast, four lesser explosions hampered firemen as they searched for two missing workers, both women. One was found alive.
Officials said it was possible the woman, still missing had left the plant dazed and was not trapped inside. But plant personnel, law enforcement officers and volunteers combed the piles of glass and twisted metal until late Monday night, then took a break until daylight.
"It was just a mass of debris and metal and glass
--glass all over the streets -- when we got there,"
said Fire Chief Paul Benton.
The explosion blew out the roof and one wall, but the company spokesman, Gary Kemp, said the building was designed to collapse that way in the event of a blast. He said the other three walls were concrete, three feet thick.
The dead recovered Monday were identified as:
ELSIE HARRISON, 62.
LULA MAE MADISON, 40.
ELIZA WALKER, 57, all of the Camden area.
A spokeswoman at Ouachita Memorial Hospital at Camden said 13 persons had been admitted with injuries, seven more treated and released and one transferred to another hospital. Most were women.
Kemp said one witness told him that the explosion occurred during a thunderstorm when a bolt of lightning hit an electrical transformer and ran through wires into the plant.
Norman C. Eckert, the plant's technical director, called it a "freak accident" and said the chances against such a thing happening were 50,000 to 1.
The Daily Leader Pontiac Illinois 1976-03-09