Akron, OH Energy Plant Explosion, Dec 1984


Akron, Ohio (UPI) -- A chemical solvent may have triggered an explosion and fire that killed three men and injured eight others at Akron's trouble-prone Recycle Energy plant, officials said today.
The explosion ripped through the plant, which burns trash to generate steam heat, about 1:27 p.m. Thursday, sending a column of dirty gray smoke billowing hundredsd of feet into the air.
"We heard one explosion and then we heard two more," said plant worker Gary Gilchrist. "We just got the hell out of there, that's all."
Mayor Tom Sawyer said some 25 people were in the plant when the explosion occurred. He theorized a chemical solvent may have touched off the explosion and fire because workers had detected a solvent odor about 12:45 p.m.
The explosion followed less than an hour later, indicating a volatile chemical may have gotten into the trash stream.
HENRY TEASDALE, 55, Akron, and WILLIAM GRIGGS, 21, Stow, were killed in the explosion while DALE LILLER, 30, Ravenna, died Thursday night in the burn unit at Children's Hospital of Akron.
In serious condition at a hospital were KENNETH BELL, 49, and EMIL KATONA, 34, both of Akron.
MARK KAVALI, JR., 48, KENNETH JOHNSON, 26, and RICHARD TERRELL, 37, all of Akron, were in satisfactory condition with smoke inhalation. KENNETH FOWLER, 43, Canton, was in serious condition with smoke inhalation, and FREEMAN MIZE, 47, Copley, was in satisfactory condition with burns.
Sawyer said indications wre that of those killed and injured, five were plant employees and four were employees of comtractors working at the site.
"Rescue attempts were hampered in the beginning by a wall of fire and dense smoke," he said. "The Akron arson bureau and Summit County coroner's office are investigating to determine the cause of the fire and explosions."
He said damage to the plant appeared to be extensive but superficial, with most of it confined to siding and windows blown off exterior walls. He said he anticipated getting the boilers back into service sometime today using natural gas.
The plant, plagued by frequent explosions since it bagan operations in 1979, supplies steam heat for some 160 downtown buildings.
Last year there were 13 explosions and fires at the plant, which is operated for the city by Tricil Inc. of Canada, it was shut down after a Dec. 30, 1983, explosion and did not resume operations until Jan. 13.
Sawyer said the city will take "a serious look" at the plant's operations and decide how to handle them in the future.

Burlington Hawk-Eye Iowa 1984-12-21