Pinole, CA Hercules Powder Explosion, Feb 1929

Pinole CA circa 1910.jpg

THREE KILLED IN HERCULES EXPLOSION.

TERRIFIC BLAST ROCKS COUNTRYSIDE IN VICINITY OF POWDER WORKS AT PINOLE; FOURTH WORKER INJURED.

DISASTER ALARM FIRST BROADCAST BY GRIZZLY PEAK LOOKOUT IN BERKELEY WHO FELT JAR, SAW SMOKE RISE.

Three men were killed and at least one other was badly hurt today in a terrific explosion at the Pinole plant of the Hercules Powder company in Contra Costa County.
Killed were:
AMANCIO DE FREITAS, 32, foreman, of Hercules, married and the father of four children.
CHRIST ANDERSON, 44, single, Santa Cruz.
ANDREW B. CHRISTENSEN, 28, married, of Hercules.
EMIL JOHNSON, working 100 feet from the building in which the explosion took place, was badly injured by falling debris.
The force of the explosion shook surrounding plants' buildings on their foundations and rattled windows miles away.
The telephone office in which Miss Betty Harness is operator was only a short distance away. She stuck to her post throughout the excitement.
The men were killed and a considerable part of the plant was wrecked when 1500 pounds of gelatine in packing shed No. 4 exploded. All three men were company employees.
Company officials immediately started a probe of the cause of the explosion. Until that is completed they announced that no statement as to the cause would be given out.
The explosion shot a pillar of flame and smoke thousands of feet in to the air. It was seen by Allan Schute, the fire lookout at Grizzly Peak, who made the first report of the accident.
The explosion occurred shortly after 11 o'clock.
Contra Costa County officials are joining with E. D. Armstrong, plant superintendent, in the probe into the explosion.
FREITAS is survived by a widow and four small children.
The cause of the blast may never by known, for the three men inside the explosion area were blown to bits. Pieces of machinery, slivers of wood and bits of flesh cascaded into the air and fell in a shower for several hundred feet around.
JOHNSON, the injured man, is a transfer trucker, who has charge of carrying dynamite "dough" from another part of the plant to No. 4 house. He was about 100 feet from the house, which is surrounded by earth bulkheads, when the explosion took place. He was knocked flat and unconscious, but shortly recovered sufficiently to be out of danger.
DAVE WHITE, engineer, and LOUIS MAREIRO, switchmen on the compressed air "dinky" locomotive that works about the plant, saw the walls of No. 4 bulge. They leaped for safety behind their engine, which was about 200 feet away from the house.
Coroner Aubrey Wilson went to the scene and took charge of the bodies immediately after the explosion.
The units of the powder works are 400 feet apart and separated by high earth embankments that tend to throw debris upward in the event of an explosion, or towards San Francisco Bay, which is but a short distance away.
Medical aid was rushed to the scene from Richmond and Pinole.
An emergency crew of firemen and company employees was mobilized immediately and prevented the spread of flames, which followed the blast.
Buildings of the powder company are isolated behind artificial hills as a precaution to prevent explosions setting off the whole plant.

Oakland Tribune California 1929-02-11