Nitro, WV Chemical Plant Explosion, Apr 1957


Charleston, W. Va. (UP) -- An explosion at a Monsanto Chemical Co. plant near here leveled a three-story building Tuesday killing five workmen, injuring four others and unleashing chlorine fumes which forced 1,500 persons to leave their homes.
The blast, of undetermined origin, "blew apart" the building, one of several single-unit structures known as "shells," at the sprawling Monsanto installation at Nitro, W. Va., 15 miles from here.
The building was reduced to rubble.
Four of the injured were in "very critical" condition at Thomas Memorial Hospital and the fifth was listed as serious.
State police ordered more than 1,500 persons to leave their homes when the chlorine fumes spread from the wrecked building after the blast.
Company firemen quickly halted the escape of the gas and the residents later were allowed to return to their homes.
Those killed in the blast were building foreman ELMER PRIDDY, SR., 56; JACK VINTROX, 47;
JOE JOHNSON, 33, and LACY GILBERT, 47, all of Nitro, and MANSFORD QUALLS, 34, of Hurricane, W. Va. GILBERT and QUALLS died in hospitals hours after the blast.
The injured were PAUL MARTIN, 31, Poca, W. Va.; TOM MILLER, 41, Bancroft, W. Va., and TOM SMITH, 33, Eleanor, W. Va., and LACY GILBERT, 47, Nitro, all "very critical," and LIONEL JONES, 41, Poca.
Two WCHS-TV cameramen, BILL KELLY, 22, and DAVE RILEY, 20, were overcome by gas while taking pictures and were admitted to Charleston General Hospital for treatment.

Provo Daily Herald Utah 1957-04-17


Nitro Fire 1957

I was 14, living in Huntington, at the time of the explosion. I remember waking up and seeing a red sky. It scared me to death! I thought the world was coming to an end. (This was the time of the cold war.) I'll never forget that sky. I don't remember now what woke me up. I don't know if we could have heard the explosion that far away. But I'm certain it was the explosion that woke me. Whether it was sound or light, I don't know. Today, I thought I remembered the time as being around 4:00. My memory is pretty close. The explosion occurred about 4:30.

Tom Smith

Tom Smith later died April 21, 1957 from bronco pneumonia brought on from the burns he received over 100% of his body from the explosion.

Nitro WV Explosion 1957

I was a 28 year old lab technician at that plant and remember all the glass floatinf thru the bldg from brokrn windows in the lab. It caused severe damage to the lab. One point of interest was John Mattea(Kathy's father who was a Hero while getting People out of the blast area. That was 1957