Dallas, TX Chemical Plant Explosion, Apr 1972


Dallas (AP) -- Eight persons were killed Wednesday when tons of a volatile chemical exploded in a chemical plant, hurling steel girders, concrete and brick through the one-story building.

Firemen searched into the night in the rubble for bodies of the victims. The last of the dead was found seven hours after the first explosion.

The series of three sharp blasts occurred shortly before 2 p.m. and demolished the Penwalt Industries plant, makers of chemical food additives used in bakeries.

Seven of the eight dead were identified today as:
PAUL D. PIRKLE, 18, of Fort Worth.
VELMA WILSON, 47, of Irving.
BURTIS BURREL, 40. of Dallas.
JUDY MOERBE, 21, of Dallas.
BOBBIE JACKSON, 33, of Dallas.
JAMES SPIKE, about 18, of Dallas.
The eighth victim was not immediately identified.

Capt. Larry Jones of the Dallas Fire Department said it was not determined at once what caused the 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of potassium bromate to explode. The chemical is used widely in the baking industry.
One witness said: "It hurled steel beams and bricks into the air and I saw bodies flying into the air, too."

There were 27 persons working in the building when the chemical exploded in a thunderous roar on Dallas' near northwest side in what is known as the Trinity Industrial District.

"The next thing I knew I was near a door and stuff was falling all around me," one employe said. "I crawled out through the falling debris to safety. I felt sparks hitting my body."

Hospital attendants said five persons suffered compound fractures and skull fractures and one was burned.

Fire roared through the demolished building while firemen braved possible new explosions to remove drums of other volatile chemicals.

Some 90 firemen using 19 pieces of fire equipment arrived at the blaze, which had been declared a four alarm fire.

Witnesses said metal bits and glass were thrown 300 feet from the building by the explosions.

A number of businesses adjacent to the plant received damage.

Pampa Daily News Texas 1972-04-06