Quinnesec, MI Chemical Plant Explosion, July 1974
ONE KILLED IN CHEMICAL PLANT BLASTS.
Quinnesec, Mich. (UPI) -- FIremen worked cautiously through the night to prevent more explosions at a Gulf Oil nitrate plant where a series of blasts Monday shattered windows in an eight-mile area and killed a fireman.
Fearing more explosions at the facility in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, firemen sought to keep pockets of flames from reaching two tank cars loaded with chemicals.
Four violent explosions, triggered by a gasoline fire in a garage, tore through the plant Monday. The manager of the facility, J. P. Jones, drove a truck loaded with explosive chemicals out of the burning garage shortly before the first blast and was praised for heroism by Gulf officials.
JAMES OLSON, 18, who was driving his car to the plant after the fire broke out, was killed. The first explosion flung a rear truck axle against the young fireman's car, killing him but missing a passenger.
Two youths, STEVE PETERS, the passenger in OLSON'S car, and 13-year-old SCOTT SPARAPANI who lived nearby, were hospitalized with minor injuries. Several other persons were treated for cuts from flying glass, rocks and steel.
Three more blasts followed during a 30-minute span. Shrapnel whizzed through the area. WIndows shattered in homes and business places. A set of truck wheels flew 1,000 yards and barely missed a state trooper. Electricity was knocked out in the city of Norway, nearly five miles away.
About 50 residents were evacuated and the highway was closed to traffic for several hours.
Jones said he spotted flames coming from a truck in the garage and was unable to extinguish them.
"The flames were coming out of the truck and just turned into a giant ball of fire," he said.
He warned the plant's seven employes to get away from the area.
He then drove another truck away.
"The situation could have been much worse except for the fact that he risked his life to go back and drive that truck away from the flames," said David Narr at Gulf headquarters in Tulsa, Okla.
Kingsport Times Tennessee 1974-07-23