Attleboro, MA Chemical Plant Explosion, Jan 1964


Attleboro, Mass. (AP) -- An explosion heard for miles leveled a chemical plant building Sunday night, inflicting death and injury on a Sunday shift.
Further blasts were feared as fire swept a warehouse.
Two persons were known dead and at least 10 injured.
'The dead were identified as WILLIAM CANIGLIA, 35, North Providence, R. I., and NORMAN ST. PIERRE, 29.
The blast at the THOMPSON Chemical Co. plant was heard in Boston, about 40 miles north of Attleboro.
A lesser explosion shook the same plant last Friday, injuring one worker. Fire officials said Friday's blast resulted when a safety cap blew off a vaporizer used in a chemical process.
About 40 persons were believed at work when Sunday's blast occurred around 7 p. m.
The building that blew up -- known to employes as V1 -- disintegrated from the force of the explosion. Then the fire skipped to another building 200 feet away where compounds were used to make vinyl resins. This burned for hours.
Evacuees from 100 or 250 homes were taken to McKenna Junior High School and Civil Defense units rushed from Boston to aid them.

Florence Morning News South Carolina 1964-01-13



Attleboro (AP) -- A Chemical plant blew up last night with a shattering roar -- like a bomb, witnesses said -- killing six and injuring scores.
The explosion was followed by a fire which raged out of control for hours destroying three out of six buildings which covered a 15-acre site in the Hebronville section of Attleboro.
Witnesses said there was a series of explosions followed by a gigantic blast heard for 50 miles.
Firemen from 30 communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island battled the blaze all night. By mid-morning the fire had been contained in a warehouse and office building, but great clouds of acrid smoke rolled across the countryside.
Police blocked roads leading through the smoky area.
The blast damaged homes near the plant, smashing windows and knocking pictures from walls. All of the windows in an 800-pupil elementary school across the road from the plant were broken, with the sashes and frames ripped away.
About 100 families fled from their homes in the vicinity. Most of them found shelter with relatives. Broken windows and lack of power in freezing weather delayed their immediate return.
The blast hit the multi-million dollar Thompson Chemical Co. plant.
Victor J. Baxt, vice president and general manager, said he was unable to say what caused the explosion or to estimate the loss.
Unofficial extimates said the damage could exceed $3 million.
Fire Chief Merton Churchill, who later was taken to a hospital, said there was a 20 minute delay in battling the blaze. The first firemen at the scene were ordered away when a plant chemist warned of the danger of additional explosions.
Churchill said when the chemist announced that explosion danger had passed the fire was raging out of control in the three buildings which were destroyed.
Churchill said the big explosion was in a chemical building called "V-1" where poly vinyl chloride resin is produced.
The resin is used in the manufacture of various plastics, including phonograph records.
A second chemical building called "V-2" building was damaged.
The dead and the most serious injured were all plant employees.
The plant operates on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week.
The firemen said that when they first arrived the injured were coming out of the building with their hair and clothing burned off.
In addition to the six dead more than 20 persons were hospitalized, some being released after treatment.
The blast and fire halted service more than three hours on the New Haven railroad main line which runs along one edge of the chemical plant property.
About 40 to 50 persons, nearby residents were injured, some suffering from the concussion and others cuts by flying glass when their windows blew in.

Attleboro (AP) -- The casualty list from the explosions which wrecked the Thompson Chemical Co. plant last night:
WILLIAM CANIGLIA, 35, North Providence, R.I.
HENRY SHEPHERD, Pawtucket, R.I. (tentative identification).
Two men reported as missing were identified only as CLIFFORD REILLY and J. ARBOUR.
Injured and under treatment at Sturdy Memorial hospital, Attleboro:
LOUIS SILVA, 40, of Seekonk, on the danger list with burns over 75 per cent of his body.
ERNEST STEZESAK, 40, Seekonk, on the danger list, multiple fractures and body injuries.
NORMAN SHARRETT, 37, Pawtucket, R. I., fume poisoning.
CHARLES PARENT, 31, Fall River, facial cuts and smoke inhalation.
Fire Chief MERTON E. CHURCHILL, 51, of Attleboro, was admitted to the hospital at 5 a.m., suffering from chest pains which were not immediately diagnosed.
Deputy Fire Chief NORMAN J. JACKSON, 36, of Attleboro, overcome by fumes.
Fireman DAVID FOTHLER, 37, also affected by fumes.
Fireman FRANCIS D. SMITH, 46, hospitalized from exhaustion.
Treated and released from Sturdy hospital (all suffered smoke inhalation):
Admitted to Memorial hospital in Pawtucket, R.I.:
NORMAND ST. PIERRE, 29, Attleboro, on the danger list with multiple injuries.
CHESTER ALVERSON, 53, Seekonk, a head injury when a door fell on him at his home 50 yards from the blast.
HARRY CROCKER, 72, Pawtucket, suffered shock in his home two miles from the blast scene.
Treated in the Pawtucket hospital and released:
MRS. MARGARET ALVERSON, 51, wife of CHESTER, minor injuries.
DONALD GREAVES, 20, Glasgow Street, Seekonk.

Lowell Sun Massachusetts 1964-01-13


Thompson Chemical explosion.

My aunt,uncle, and cousins were living in that house near the main gate when the explosion occurred. My aunt recently posted this link. Odd that I was actually talking about this just a week ago. Is there anyway to view the documentary online?

My father was a Attleboro

My father was a Attleboro firefighter at the time of the explosion and fought the the fire for many days. I went to the school across the street at the time.

documentary info

I just saw the documentary tonight. It is very well done.

More information can be found


it's supposed to be available on DVD contact:

Attleboro Access Cable System, Inc.
42 Union Street
Attleboro, MA 02703
Phone: 508.226.2227


Just seeing how you made out with the documentary my uncle was clifford riley my father was cliffs younger brother if you could share any info you recieved on him would be apprciated thank you 508-510-0195
thank you

Thompson Chemical Plant explosion 1964


My father was one of the 6 men killed on that horrible Sunday night Jan 12, 1964. Did you complete your documentary? Is it possible to get more information about it?

Thompson Chemical

Hi Rodger,

I`m just wondering if you made that documantry? If you could please send me the info i would appreciate it.

Thank you


My mom grew up just over the Attleboro line here in Seekonk with her five other siblings and parents... they all have crazy memories about being evacuated and also the falling "ash" that someone else mentioned. I'm sure that a few of them might be interested in speaking about thier memories. Last I knew ERNEST STEZESAK, 40, Seekonk was still around. He was a janitor at North School for years, and a neighbor to my dad's parents. His daughter is now neighbor (in his old house) to my parents (in my grandparents old house.

I know lot of questions arose regarding the chemical plant & rail road deliveries and the incidence of ALS (Lou Gherig's Disease) in the community. This disease did in fact effect our family.


My Father (Vic) worked at the plant and was on his night off when the explosion hit. He was called in as part of a recovery crew. He told me about his experiences at the time. He worked in the area know as T-15. He eventually died at age 54 from a form of cancer directly related to the plant as did most of the others he worked with. His exposure to these chemicals is what did it. Though he never processed any action against them as he always said that "The company paid him well and he knew the risks invovled with the PVC resins". I can still see him riding his bicycle to the main game to bring my mother his pay check. I still remember the little house outside the main gate as well as the dog house in the yard. They were still there after the blast. I've been by there and some of the plant is still there rusted and destroyed. They were good days in my life, not the explosion, but when my Dad worked there

Thompson Chemical Explosion

Hi, Just wondering when this documentary will air. My parents were living here in Hebronville on Hebron Avenue when the explosion happened. They still live here in the same house and they would like to give their story of the explosion. Let me know if that would be possible.

Thank you,

Denise Nicolas

Thompson Chemical Co,.

A friend and i were discussing our childhood memories of the explosion. I don't know if you have completed your documentary yet, but I thought you would be interested in my story.

I was only 6 years old and lived in the Dodgeville area. When the explosion happened a policeman knocked on our door and told us we had to evacuate. My father who was 36 years old just had a heart attack and had been released from Sturdy two days previous. We headed to the school where we were instructed to go when my father realized that he forgot his nitroglycerin. We turned back but was stopped by a road block and was told we could not return to our home and was directed to the Red Cross. My family (father , mother, sister and grandmother) went to the red cross and were being helped by them when Mrs. Leach (Leach & Garner) came over and insisted that we go home with her. This was very generous of her. I will never forget my stay with her and the lovely home with all the tudor style doors. There hospitality has always stayed with me and feel blessed that they helped us. And in the morning when we were leaving it was like magic because it started to snow. These are my memories of that explosion. I still live in the same house and am grateful that we do not have that chemical company near us anymore.