Pittsburg, CA Pesticide Plant Explosion, May 1979


Pittsburg, Calif. (UPI) -- A pesticide manufacturing unit at a Dow Chemical Co plant exploded Saturday, killing tow men and sending 38 others to hospitals.
One victim, JACK WRIGHT, was decapitated by flying metal. A second worker, GARBIEL MARTINEZ, died in a helicopter on route to a regional burn center.
Dow spokesman Bob Mayo said 28 employees of three construction companies working at the plant were held over at six area hospitals for treatment of burns and 10 other workers were treated and released.
Mayo said the explosion caused $1 million damage to the chemical plant, 30 miles northeast of San Francisco.
The blast released a 100-foot-high toxic white cloud of hydrogen chloride, and highway patrolmen and sheriff's deputies initially warned nearby residents to remain indoors. But the warning was withdrawn when Dow officials said the fumes, when dissipated, presented no danger to humans.
The explosion, heard in a radius of five miles, occurred in a 600-gallon nickel tank located outside under a metal roof and surrounded by pipes and other equipment in a new unit used for making pesticides.
The cause of the blast was not known.
ARVIS DUNCAN, 47, a foreman, who was 60 feet away, said, "The building I was in shook. The acoustic tiles fell off, the windows popped and I smelled fumes."
The tank, which first went into operation earlier in the week, was employed in a new 20-hour process utilizing iron chloride to make a chemical element of Dow pesticides used in protecting corn.
When the tank was cooking its third batch Saturday, the temperature abruptly shot up from 140 to 220 degrees centigrade and the explosion resulted.

Chronicle Telegram Elyria Ohio 1979-05-28