Explosives can sometimes be very unpredictable. People make mistakes every day --- it seems to be a part of being human. If you make a mistake with explosives, it will probably be your last mistake. The intent of this section is to demonstrate how a large number of educated, intelligent people can be killed and injured by explosives in spite of safety precautions and years of experience in dealing with explosives. Someone who does not have the training or experience will fare much much worse when dealing with explosives. It is usually not what you know that will get you killed .
INDEX----(Scroll down or click on a link to go directly to an incident) Texas City Disaster Port Chicago Disaster Russian Disaster Military Incidents Other Accidents Recent Events ATF Incidents The Real Story Behind Chinese Fireworks
Texas City Disaster: a Painful Way to Learn In the bright, clear, spring morning of April 16, 1947, an event occurred in the Texas City Harbor in Texas City. To the survivors of this disaster, what happened on that Sunday morning was like the end of the world. Sadly, to those who did not make it, this indeed became the end of their world. This event that brings unforgettable painful memories from 50 years ago is referred to as the Texas City disaster.
It all began with the French cargo ship, S.S. Grandcamp, a 437-foot ship that arrived at Texas City Harbor on April 11, 1947. Upon arrival, the Grandcamp was already loaded with 16 cases of small arms ammunition, 59000 bales of sisal binder twine, 380 bales of cotton, 9334 bags of shelled peanuts and some oil field, refrigeration and farm machinery. Over the next few days, bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, shipped from Nebraska via rail by TCT (Texas City Terminal Railway company) were being loaded onto the ship. By the morning of April 16, 1947, No. 2 hold had 1420 tons of ammonium nitrate while No. 4 had 880 tons.
At 8 am that morning, a longshoreman smelled smoke coming out of hold No. 4. He alertly notified his co-workers and they moved several bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and found flames between the cargo and the hull. They tried putting out the fire with a jug of drinking water and fire extinguisher but their effort ended in vain while the flame got worse. Some crew members started hauling boxes of small arms ammunition out of hold No. 5 (to avoid explosion!) In hold No. 4, some crew members called for a hose line to distinguish the fire but the ship captain, Charles de Guillebon, interfered because he did not want water to ruin his precious cargo. Instead, he ordered the men to close the hatch to No.4 hold, cover the cargo with a wet, heavy tarpaulin and activate the ship's stream smothering system in an attempt to suffocate the flames.
What the captain and the crew members did not know was that the steam they introduced actually combined with decomposing fertilizer to create combustible gas. Eventually, the found out when the gas blew off the hatch cover and thick columns of orange and brown smoke rushed into the air. Captain Guillebon thus ordered to abandon the ship and finally a call went to the Texas City Fire Department. However, the worst thing is that no one, including the fire fighters and the so called experts, knew that the burning Grandcamp had been transformed into a floating bomb.
The fire department, equipped with merely 4 fire trucks along with 27 of the city's 50 volunteer firefighters rushed to the site within 15 minutes. On the other hand, the orange and red smoke attracted spectators, mostly children to the dock. The streams of water from the 4 fire trucks did little to the fire inside the 437-foot ship. Eventually, the fire went out of control as the water from the hose vaporized as soon as it hit the deck of the burning ship. Meanwhile, W.H. "Swede" Sandberg, the vice-president of the TCT called an engineer at nearby chemical plant asking about the danger of burning ammonium nitrate. The answer he got was not to worry because ammonium won't explode without a detonator.
Obviously this information was false as S.S. Grandcamp exploded at 9:12 am. At first, the ammonium nitrate in hold No. 4 exploded which lifted the 7176-ton ship 20 feet into the air. Seconds later, the heat from this explosion detonated the fertilizer in hold No. 2. The two explosions were heard 150 miles away and killed all the firefighters on the scene and most of the spectators. More damage was done when a 15-foot wave pushed out of the harbor dragged the Longhorn II, a 150-foot HCl barge, 200 feet inland onto some railroad tracks.
The shockwave from the blast, on the other hand, completely destroyed several dockside warehouses and the homes within a mile from the dock. The Monsanto Chemical Plant, located only a couple of hundred feet from Grandcamp, suffered broken pipes and shattered containers from the shockwave. The buildings collapsed while the flames started spreading, trapping people inside and quickly spread to the refineries that made up the Texas City industrial complex.
Texas City at the moment was in total chaos with chunks of debris, some of them weighing up to five tons, streaking overhead like comets. The bales of sisal twine from the Grandcamp torched hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasoline and oil floating out from ruptured reservoirs and pipelines. The worst part was the fear of yet another explosion. Two other ships in the port, S.S. High Flyer and S.S. Wilson B. Keene, are about 100 yards away from the Grandcamp. They crashed into each other and started burning after the prior explosion. Another worry came from the fact that High Flyer was loaded with ammonium nitrate as well as sulfur. An effort to tow her out of the ruined harbor ended in vain.
On April 17, at 1 am, spectators were evacuated from the area because at 1:10 am, the High Flyer exploded as anticipated, taking Wilson B. Keene with her. This blast would again generate shock waves that destroyed a concrete warehouse and a grain elevator and triggered even more fires. Windows rattled and most shattered. A fine mist of black oil rained in Texas City.
Within these horrifying 16 hours, 576 died and hundreds injured in this city with only 16,000 residents. So the first question was who was responsible for a disaster of this magnitude? It was later speculated that the fire started with a single crew member who disregarded the "no smoking" sign and discarded the cigarette carelessly. The captain, on the other hand, was primarily blamed for allowing the fire to get out of control. The engineer and the so called experts who failed to give proper warning about the explosive nature of the ammonium nitrate fertilizer should know better because it was used in World War II as an explosive material as well.
However, in this worst industrial accident in American history, placing the blame on individuals won't justify the death of 576 people. Those individuals all paid dearly for their misjudgment. What would, is to try to learn from this event and prevent another 576 people from being victims. With the rescue operation, the continuous rebuilding process from the ground up, plus the heartbreaking loss of family members, relatives, business or homes that almost every member of the Texas City community had to go through, it was like rebuilding a war-torn city.
In the long run, the outcome of this event is actually positive. Most people who went through this horrifying event did not simply back down or try to put it behind them. Instead, without any hesitation, the rebuilding process, led by the mayor, Curtis Trahan and the leader of the two hardest hit industries, Edgar M. Queeney of Monsanto and W.H. "Swede" Sandberg of Texas City Terminal Railway (TCT) started right away to make Texas City a bigger, better and safer place. Today, 50 years from the Texas City Disaster, Texas city has rebuilt into a major industrial city with a population of 42000, almost triple the amount back in 1947.
In an effort to improve the safety of Texas city, it's fire department now has 60 full-time employees, compare to 50 volunteers back then. It now has fire engines, foam-spraying trucks and other vehicles to combat hazardous materials spills and other fire. The modern pumper trucks can shoot tons of water in a short period time after they arrive at the fire scene. The fire department is obviously far better prepared than the 4 pieces of equipment available in 1947.
Also, establishment of systems such as the Industrial Mutual Aid System pulled together industrial and municipal resources to handle major emergencies in a cooperative fashion. On the other hand, four-tiered warning system for emergencies was also established. At full scale, "Level four", city's warning siren would be on to alert residents to "shelter-in-place" in homes or businesses and tune into radio and TV broadcasts for additional information. This system has proven it's effectiveness in several occasions.
To make Texas city a better place to live, efforts were made to create buffer zones between chemical plants (i.e. hot zone, the area of maximal potential danger) and the residents. In 1947, the mistake was that the homes were against the fences of the refineries in some cases, which allowed people too little time to escape.
Another improvement is the increasing number of hospitals now in Texas city. In 1947, the closest hospital was 15 miles away. This is part of the reason why a lot of injured victims did not receive proper care in time which might give them a chance to survive. Texas city is now much better prepared should an emergency like that strike again.
From the medical perspective, some other positives come out of this disaster as well. First of all, the massive need for blood transfusions for the victims aided in the founding of the American Association of Blood Banks in Fort Worth, Texas, in November 1947. It also motivated the establishment of the American Red Cross' national civilian blood program. Medical centers such as the hospital of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), which was the nearest one to the disaster site, gained valuable experience in the medical care given to disaster victims suffering from severe laceration, fractures and hypoxia.
In general, an important lesson learned from this accident was the emphasis on safety. The mistake captain Guillebon made was to make his decision based on economics. He was concerned more about his precious cargo than the safety at large. The mistake was proven to be costly.
So how dangerous is ammonium nitrate? First of all, let's look at this white crystal. It is a commonly used fertilizer all over the world. In most documents about the Texas City Disaster, ammonium nitrate is described as a "highly explosive" material with the supporting evidence of the Texas City Disaster (of course), the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and its use in military munitions during World War II.
However, on the other hand, in most safety data sheets published by ammonium nitrate manufacturers, ammonium nitrate is said to be stable and when properly handled, it is perfectly safe to store and ship. It is interesting how the two sources can have opposite views on the same chemical and yet both have convincible evidence backing up the claim.
One might then suspect why a large explosion like the Texas City disaster occurred if ammonium nitrate is stable and is meant for household use as fertilizer? Basically, it is because as ammonium nitrate kept on burning in hold No. 4, the temperature was raised and eventually exceeded the decomposition temperature of 210 degree Celsius. A large quantity of ammonium nitrate then decomposed and the result was an explosion. One interesting point is that because this decomposition reaction requires only ammonium nitrate and heat, but not oxygen, the Captain's idea of suffocation would not have prevented the explosion in the first place.
Today, government regulations play a more active role in preventing a Texas-City-Disaster-like event from happening. To ensure safety when handling ammonium nitrate, one should comply with the latest edition of the National Fire Protection Associations, "ANSI/NFPA 490 Storage and Handling of Ammonium Nitrate." Plus, state and local agencies may have additional regulations for hazardous materials.
Besides the regulations above, government also have regulations on fire fighting techniques. It is required that the employees who are expected to fight fires to undergo training and be properly equipped as stated in OSHA 1910.156. Basically, the requirement for fighting this sort of fire is to wear appropriate protective clothing to prevent contact with skin and eyes and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to prevent contact with thermal decomposition products. For small fires, one can use water spray, dry chemical, carbon dioxide or chemical foam. One should also spray water on fire-exposed containers to cool down the temperature and avoid explosion. Basically, a flooding amount of water is recommended for fighting a fire involving ammonium nitrate.
What the government is doing today is to put safety tips, guidelines and fire-fighting techniques into written form. Thus when a fire occurs, one could readily refer to a reliable source and the mistakes made by Captain Guillebon and the engineer in the chemical plant would not likely be committed again.
50 years and 6 months after the Texas City disaster, a lot of changes have been made to ensure the safety of handling hazardous material due to the disaster. It was a wake up call for people around the world to look deeply into the safety issues and for government to assume an active role in enforcing those issues. For the residents in Texas City who decided to stay and rebuild after the disaster, it was more than a wake up call for safety. It was a painful memory that made people even stronger. It was a call for the community to come together and make Texas city a major industrial center again. It was a joint effort to make Texas City a better and safer place to live. However, watch out! No place is safe enough, and a Texas City disaster could very well strike again somewhere in the world today!
(Go back to Top of this page) - The Port Chicago Disaster - On the night of 17th July 1944, two transport vessels loading ammunition at the Port Chicago (California) naval base on the Sacramento River were suddenly engulfed in a gigantic explosion. The incredible blast wrecked the naval base and heavily damaged the small town of Port Chicago, located 1.5 miles away. Some 320 American naval personnel were killed instantly. The two ships and the large loading pier were totally annihilated. Several hundred people were injured, and millions of dollars in property damage was caused by the huge blast. Windows were shattered in towns 20 miles away, and the glare of the explosion could be seen in San Francisco, some 35 miles away. It was the worst home-front disaster of World War II. Officially, the world's first atomic test explosion occurred on 16th July 1945 at Alamagordo, New Mexico; but the Port Chicago blast may well have been the world's first atomic detonation, whether accidental or not.
The E. A. Bryan, the ship which exploded at Port Chicago, was a 7,212-ton EC-2 Liberty ship commanded by Captain John L. M. Hendricks of San Pedro, California, and operated by Oliver J. Olson & Co., San Francisco. It was built and launched at the Kaiser Steel shipyard in Richmond, California, in March 1944. She made a maiden voyage to the South Pacific and then was ordered into the US Navy's Alameda Shipyards where the five-ton (10,000-pound maximum load) booms and gear on the no. 1 and no. 5 holds were removed and replaced with 10-ton booms and gear. It then docked at Port Chicago on 13th July 1944. At 8.00 am on 14th July, naval personnel began loading ammunition. The E. A. Bryan had been moored at Port Chicago for four days, taking on ammunition and explosives night and day. Some 98 men of Division Three were hard at work loading the Bryan, and by 10.00 p.m. on 17th July the ship was loaded with some 4,600 tons of munitions including 1,780 tons of high explosives.
The second ship, the Quinalt Victory, was brand new; it was preparing for its maiden voyage. The Quinalt Victory had moored at Port Chicago at about 6.00 p.m. on the evening of 17th July. Some 102 men of the Sixth Division, many of whom had only recently arrived at Port Chicago, were busy rigging the ship in preparation for loading of ammunition which was due to begin by midnight.
In addition to the enlisted men present, there were nine Navy officers, 67 members of the crews of the two ships along with an Armed Guard detail of 29 men, five crew members of a Coast Guard fire barge, a Marine sentry and a number of civilian employees. The pier was congested with men, equipment, a locomotive, 16 railroad boxcars, and about 430 tons of bombs and projectiles waiting to be loaded. Most of the enlisted men, upon first arriving at Port Chicago, were quite fearful of the explosives they were expected to handle. But, over time, many of the men simply accommodated themselves to the work situation by discounting the risk of an explosion. Most men readily accepted the officers' assurances that the bombs could not explode because they had no detonators.
Just before 10:20 p.m., a massive explosion occurred at the pier. To some observers it appeared that two explosions, only a few seconds apart, occurred: a first and smaller blast was felt; this was followed quickly by a cataclysmic explosion as the E. A. Bryan went off like one gigantic bomb, sending a column of fire and smoke more than 12,000 feet into the night sky. Everyone on the pier and aboard the two ships were killed instantly (some 320 men).
Very few intact bodies were recovered. Another 390 military and civilian personnel were injured. Property damage, military and civilian, was estimated at more than US$12 million. The E. A. Bryan was literally blown to bits. Very little of its wreckage was ever found. The Quinalt Victory was lifted clear out of the water by the blast, turned around and broken into pieces. The largest piece of the Quinalt Victory which remained after the explosion was a 65-foot section of the keel, its propeller attached, which protruded from the bay at low tide, 1,000 feet from its original position. There was at least one 12-ton diesel locomotive operating on the pier at the time of the explosion. Not a single piece of the locomotive car was ever identified: the locomotive simply vanished. In the river stream, several small boats half a mile distant from the pier reported being hit by a 30-foot wall of water. In an interview, one of the men described his experience of the disaster: "I was reading a letter from home. Suddenly there were two explosions. The first one knocked me clean off... I found myself flying toward the wall. I just threw up my hands like this, then I hit the wall. Then the next one came right behind that. Phoom! Knocked me back on the other side. Men were screaming, the lights went out and glass was flying all over the place. I got out to the door. Everybody was...that thing had...the whole building was turned around, caving in. We were a mile and a half away from the ships. And so the first thing that came to my mind, I said, 'Jesus Christ, the Japs have hit!' I could have sworn they were out there pounding us with warships or bombing us or something. But one of the officers was shouting, 'It's the ships! It's the ships!' So we jumped in one of the trucks and we said, 'Let's go down there, see if we can help.' We got halfway down there on the truck and stopped. Guys were shouting at the driver from the back of the truck, 'Go on down. What the hell are you staying up here for?' The driver says, 'Can't go no further.' See, there wasn't no more dock. Wasn't no railroad. Wasn't no ships. And the water just came right up to...all the way back. The driver couldn't go no further. Just as calm and peaceful. I didn't even see any smoke." Rescue assistance was rushed from nearby towns and other military bases. The town of Port Chicago was heavily damaged by the explosion but fortunately none of its citizens were killed, although many suffered injuries.
During the night and early morning, the injured were removed to hospitals and many of the enlisted men were evacuated to nearby stations, mainly to Camp Shoemaker in Oakland. Others remained at Port Chicago to clear away debris and search for what could be found of bodies. The search for bodies was grim work. One survivor recalled the experience: "I was there the next morning. We went back to the dock. Man, it was awful; that was a sight. You'd see a shoe with a foot in it, and then you'd remember how you'd joked about who was gonna be the first one out of the hold. You'd see a head floating across the water-just the head-or an arm. Bodies...just awful." Some 200 enlisted men volunteered to remain at the base and help with the clean-up operation.
Three days after the disaster, Captain Merrill T. Kinne-officer-in-charge of Port Chicago-issued a statement praising the enlisted men for their behaviour during the disaster. Stating that the men acquitted themselves with "great credit", he added, "Under those emergency conditions, regular members of our complement and volunteers from Mare Island displayed creditable coolness and bravery."
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Ethnic disorders were not the only sad news that Gorbachev conveyed to the Congress last week. On Monday, dressed in a funeral black suit, the Soviet leader called for a moment of silence in memory of "several hundred" Soviets who perished over the weekend in a gas-pipeline explosion in the southern Ural mountains. Some three hours before the explosion, technicians apparently noticed a dip in pressure along one section of the pipeline. But instead of searching for a leak, they turned up the gas flow to get the pressure back to normal, allowing huge quantities of propane, butane and other highly flammable gasses to escape and form an atmospheric "lake." Fatefully, two passenger trains on the famed Trans-Siberan Railway were passing each other when the gases, ignited probably by a spark or a discarded cigarette, detonated with the force of a ten-kiloton bomb (the atomic bomb used on Hiroshima was 12.5 kilotons).
It was the worst train disaster in Soviet history. The explosion thrust a pillar of fire into the nighttime Siberian skies that was visible to observers more than 60 miles away. The bodies of 137 of the 1,200 passengers aboard the trains were recovered, 53 more died en route to the hospital and an unknown number were completely incinerated in the blast, making a precise toll impossible. More than 700 passengers and crew, many of them horribly burned, required hospitalization. The victims included many children on their way to summer camps on the Black Sea. On Saturday a train traveling from that resort area crashed into a bus, killing 31 people and injuring at least 14 others.
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Ordnance personnel are trained to perform weapon control system checks properly and handle ordnance with the utmost adherence to procedural steps and safety precautions. Here is a small collection of instances when procedures weren't followed or existing methods proved inadequate and the fatal results:
Two sailors aboard the USS Oriskany were restoring aircraft flares off-loaded from aircraft returning from a mission over Vietnam on October 26, 1966. One of the sailors dropped a flare. The arming mechanism had not been reset to "safe" and somehow the safety lanyard was pulled. Another sailor picked up the actuated flare, threw it into a locker, and closed the door. There were 2.75 inch rocket warheads in the locker! The flare ignited in the locker, and the heat caused a warhead to detonate, spreading the fire. Subsequent warhead detonations soon followed. Finally, a liquid oxygen tank exploded, killing 44 sailors and injuring 156. Two helicopters and four aircraft were severely damaged.
Eight months after the Oriskany fire, there was an accident on the USS Forestall. A ZUNI rocket was fired accidentally from an aircraft being readied for a mission on July 29, 1967. The rocket screamed across the flight deck, struck another aircraft and ignited a fuel fire. The initial fire could have been contained, but 90 seconds after the fire started a bomb detonated, killing or seriously wounding most of the fire fighters. The detonation ruptured the flight deck, and burning fuel spilled into the lower levels of the ship. Bombs, warheads, and rocket motors exploded with varying egress of intensity in the fire, killing 134 and wounding 161 men. Twenty-one aircraft were destroyed
After this incident, the Navy established a flag level committee to pursue improvements to the systems used to control flight deck fuel fires. An ordnance safety program was also initiated to characterize flight deck fuel fires and study ways to delay the "cook-off" times of munitions. As a result; insulation is now applied to some bomb casings, delaying "cook-off" times 5 to 10 minutes in a fuel fire, but does not diminish the violence of its explosive reaction.
A third aircraft carrier accident occurred aboard the USS Enterprise (Not NCC-1701) on January 15, 1969. The exhaust from an aircraft engine starter unit was directed onto a pod containing four ZUNI rockets. Heat caused a warhead to detonate. Fragments ruptured the aircraft's fuel tank and ignited a fire. Three more ZUNI warheads detonated less than a minute after the first explosion. The shaped charges blew holes through the flight deck allowing burning fuel to invade the lower decks. In all, there were 18 munitions explosions and 8 holes were blown through the flight deck. Losses totaled 15 aircraft, 28 dead, and another 344 injured.
Another accident involving munitions explosions occurred on May 26, 1981 aboard the USS Nimitz. An EA-6B aircraft attempting to land at night struck a helicopter, then hit another aircraft and tow tractor before coming to rest. A fuel fire erupted. Improved flight deck fire fighting systems quickly contained the fire, and once the fire was believed to be out, the order was given to start the clean-up. As sailors approached the scene, a SPARROW missile warhead that was buried in the debris detonated! The explosion restarted the fire and three more warheads detonated before the fire could be extinguished. Fourteen sailors were killed and 39 injured. Three planes were destroyed and nine were damaged.
Rail Car Explosions
April 1973- A railroad accident draws the Navy's attention to the hazards caused by fires and sensitive munitions. A train loaded with bombs had just entered the yard in Roseville, CA, when a fire was observed in one of the boxcars. Before the fire department could react, a massive explosion demolished the boxcar and spread the fire. In the next few hours, 18 boxcars exploded in succession. There were no fatalities in this accident, but 48 people were injured and property damage totaled $24 Million.
The investigation of the Roseville train explosion was still in progress when 12 boxcars full of bombs exploded near Benson, AZ. Evidence found after the accident revealed that there had been a fire in one of the boxcars.
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Other Explosive Mishaps
The Mont Blanc
Probably the most tragic accident involving ammunition in transit occurred in 1917 in the port city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The tragedy began when a ship that was loaded with high explosives collided with another ship while entering the port. As a result of the collision, fire broke out on board the ship loaded with explosives which, after burning for a time, exploded with fearful results in the downtown waterfront area of the city. The vessel carrying the explosives was the French ship SS MONT BLANC. In her holds were approximately 7000 tons of picric acid and she carried a deck cargo of gasoline. While entering port she became involved in a collision with the Belgian steamer IMO resulting in damage which opened her hold and ignited her gasoline deck cargo. Blazing gasoline spilled into her hold through the openings caused by the collision and ignited her high explosive cargo. Her crew, expecting her to explode momentarily, abandoned her to drift in the channel. Actually, she burned for quite some time during which she was boarded by a fire fighting party form a British warship in the harbor. Likewise, tugs were dispatched to attempt to get her out of the channel. She eventually drifted against the piers along the side of the channel where, after burning for a further period of time, she detonated in a terrific blast of high explosive force which engulfed the major part of the city and harbor.
The explosion of the MONT BLANC in Halifax harbor must rank as one of the largest which has ever occurred. It was also one of the most devastating. Approximately one half of the city was leveled. A number of nearby ships were completely demolished and the tidal wave which resulted carried other ships ashore leaving them stranded inland far above high water. The casualties amounted to 1226 people dead and thousands of others injured.
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Osseo, Michigan, Dec. 12, 1998 (Bloomberg) - Seven employees at the Independence Professional Fireworks factory are
missing and feared dead after a large explosion yesterday sent debris flying hundreds of
yards, with the blast being heard at least 20 miles away, the Associated Press
reported. Six women and a man were in the factory, located 90 miles southwest
of Detroit in Osseo, Michigan at the time of the explosion. ``I suspect they are gone,''
County Sheriff Stan Burchardt, told the AP. ``There were body remains in the
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Dec. 12, 1998 (AP) -- An explosion destroyed an illegal fireworks factory in northeastern Brazil on Friday, killing 19 people and injuring 60, police said. ``There were a lot of people, many of them women, working in the building when the explosion happened,'' police officer Paulo Raimundo de Souza said by telephone. ``It seems like they had been working flat-out because there is a big demand for fireworks at this time of year with New Year's Eve coming up shortly.''
The explosion happened at 11:30 a.m. on the outskirts of Santo Antonio de Jesus, 1,050 miles northeast of Rio, he said. Nine of the dead were children who had been working in the factory, reported TV Globo. The cause of the explosion was unclear, but it appears to have been an accident, Souza said. It happened in a house that was being used as a factory. The blast also badly damaged three nearby houses, he added.
Firefighters continued to search for people in the burned remains of the factory, said Souza. The injured were being treated at different hospitals in the region. The town, which is in the state of Bahia, has a population of 80,000.
TULTEPEC, Mexico Oct./98 (AP) -- An explosion set off a pile of gunpowder used to make illegal fireworks Tuesday, obliterating a two-block area of this central Mexican town, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens. Rescuers said they expected to find more bodies as they picked through the collapsed houses in Tultepec, a town 20 miles north of Mexico City known for its homemade fireworks. Angry residents, apparently fearful that the explosion would lead to a crackdown on illegal fireworks, blocked journalists trying to enter the affected area. They said a minor natural gas explosion had occurred and that there was nothing to see. But the smell of gunpowder was strong, and television images taken from a helicopter showed a two-block section of town entirely leveled by the blast. Many blocks away, shattered glass still covered the street and people who live as far as three miles away reported hearing the blast. A crater indicated the site of the explosion. ``It was like a bomb,'' said Alejandro Garcia, a 33-year-old local businessman who lives six blocks away. Dozens of soldiers filed through the area, assault rifles drawn. Neighbors, firefighters and paramedics picked through collapsed houses, looking for survivors and bodies. Mexico state Gov. Cesar Camacho Quiroz said at least 10 people died ---including a 10-year-old boy -- and 27 were hurt. But a paramedic at the scene, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity, said he had counted 14 bodies, and that at least 45 people were injured. Gen. Francisco Fernandez Solis, general director of public safety, gave the death toll at 10 but said: ``we expect to find more when we clear the rubble.'' He confirmed that the explosion was of gunpowder. ``The explosion was started by a gas tank leak,'' he said. The tank exploded and set off a large pile of gunpowder. Many residents in Tultepec produce fireworks illegally in their homes. Residents said the explosion occurred in the main gunpowder stockpile for all of the fireworks factories in the area. In June 1997, an explosion in a Tultepec home producing illegal fireworks killed three people. And in December 1988, a Mexico City marketplace where illegal fireworks were sold exploded and set off a string of fires, killing 62 people and injuring 83.
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) 9/98-- A visiting college student was killed in an explosion during an unauthorized experiment that went wrong, police said. The visitor, David A. Rosefield, and a student from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology made an explosive device that detonated Sunday in woods near a Rose-Hulman dormitory, police said. Rosefield, 19, a student at California Institute of Technology from Chapel Hill, N.C., later died from his injuries at Union Hospital in Terre Haute, police said.
The Rose-Hulman student, Matthew Roesle, 19, of Severna Park, Md., was jailed on a charge of manufacturing or possessing an explosive device. The students told police they bought chemicals and combined them to make the explosives, said police Capt. Kevin Mayes. The students intended to light a fuse, toss the bomb into a lake on the Rose-Hulman campus and watch what happened, Mayes said. Heat or an electrical charge have detonated the mixture of chemicals, he said.
About 130 students in Roesle's dormitory and a nearby fraternity house were evacuated because police found another explosive in Roesle's room. Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms destroyed the explosive before students could return.
Teen killed in Fireworks accident
On the evening of July 13, 1998, the victim, age 16, and four juvenile friends, gathered at a friends home in Wisconsin. At approximately 10:30 p.m., they left in a pick-up truck. They proceeded to a rural area in search of deer to "shine."
According to witnesses, the victim was driving the pick-up. His four friends were riding in the rear of the PU. The victim stopped the truck next to a mailbox that he chose at random. The victim and the owner of the PU exited the vehicle. The victim handed one of his friends an M60 (explosive firework) and a lighter. They lit the device and put it in the mailbox.
The victim quickly jumped into the rear of the truck. The owner of the PU climbed into the truck's cab on the driver's side. What they did not know, was that the PU was going to stall before they could get away. This now exposed the people in the rear of the truck to the mailbox.
The mailbox exploded, blowing the door off in the direction of the victim. Shrapnel from the door cut the victim's throat severing the carotid artery. Witnesses stated the victim lost massive amounts of blood from the injury. He was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The owner of the PU was arrested and charged with two state violations: possession of illegal fireworks and disorderly conduct. The U.S. Attorney's has been advised of the case. A decision has not been made whether additional federal charges will be filed.
Brooklyn Boy Hurt by M80
A frightening accident for a little boy from Brooklyn playing with firecrackers.
The ten-year-old suffered serious hand and eye injuries after an M80 firecracker exploded in his hand. Cops say the youngster picked up the device in a house at Tinton Avenue early Monday. What he did not know, was how long the fuse burned before the device exploded. The boy is in critical but stable condition at Bellevue Hospital. His uncle, Jose Pacheco, has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, criminal possession of a weapon and other counts. Police also found heroin and a gun in the house.
ALGIERS, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Six suspected rebels were killed, their bodies cut to pieces by a bomb they were about to plant at a farmhouse in Algeria, a newspaper said on Sunday. The explosion took place on Friday in Mechra-Sfa village in Tiaret province, 230 km (143 miles) southwest of Algiers, where a bomb killed at least 26 people on an open-air market two weeks ago, said the daily Le Quotidien d'Oran. ``The bodies of the six (rebels) were torn into pieces near a farm,'' it said. The gunmen were carrying the device to plant it at a farmhouse, Le Quotidien added. Thousands of civilians have been killed in bomb attacks across Algeria in the past six years. The government has blamed Islamist rebels.
TOKYO, Dec. 31 (Kyodo) -- A 29-year-old taxi driver was seriously injured last weekend when an explosive he allegedly planned to send to his girlfriend accidentally went off, police said Thursday.
Police said the man suffered a broken leg and other injuries last Saturday in his Setagawa Ward home while trying to take apart a firework in order to make the explosive.
The man, who police said was involved in a love triangle, had in his possession a revenge manual and other materials which they believe suggested he planned to hurt his girlfriend.
Police plan to question the man on
suspicion of violating the Explosives Control Act after he recovers from the injuries.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Investigators were trying to determine Friday what caused a truck
loaded with fireworks to explode during preparations for a New Year's Eve show, killing
two technicians and critically injuring an off-duty deputy.
The blast, which happened about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, blew the top and sides off the white cargo truck. Employees from Classic Fireworks by Events Inc., a New Orleans-area company, had been loading fireworks on a barge at a wharf on the Harvey Canal. The barge was to be towed up the canal to the nearby Mississippi River, where it was scheduled to be the launching point for the midnight fireworks show held every New Year's Eve on the New Orleans waterfront.
Authorities say a decision had been made to scale back the show, so workers were taking some of the fireworks off the barge and putting them back on the
truck. One man was in the truck and another was just outside it when the explosion took place, said Austin Banks, a spokesman for the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The dead were identified as Jason Stamps, 24, of Slidell, and Scott Benoit, 29, of Harahan.
``Scott and Jason were trained pyrotechnicians. They worked with Classic Fireworks for some time,'' Banks said. But, he added, any work involving
fireworks is risky.
On Friday, ATF agents were examining the truck's skeleton, looking for clues
to what caused the blast. Benoit's brother, Eddie Benoit, 41, of Harahan was in critical condition Friday with burns over 50 percent of his body. The elder Benoit was a sergeant with the traffic division of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office. He was off duty and it was unclear whether he was employed in any capacity by Classic Fireworks or simply helping his brother. The company's president did not return telephone calls Friday.
After the blast, tugboat workers ran to the scene and found Eddie Benoit running around the dock area aflame. The fireworks show was canceled.
A 13 year old Southern California boy thought that it would be fun to play with his fathers gunpowder. This young man was reasonably intelligent and knew that if he put the powder into a metal pipe and sealed both ends then it would probably explode when it was lit. He decided to take a pipe and put a cap on just one end of it. He put an elbow on the pipe and left the other end open. He thought that if he lit the open end of the pipe, he could make a blow torch. He filled the pipe with powder and knelt down next to it to light it with a cigarette lighter. What he did not know, was that the pipe does not necessarily need to be closed at both ends to detonate. When he lit the open end of the pipe it detonated. One of the several pieces of shrapnel that struck him went into his brain and killed him. It was a high price to pay for a little bit of entertainment.
BEIJING, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Two top
officials of a city in eastern China have been sacked for bribery and two businessmen are
in custody over a deadly explosion at an illegal fireworks plant, Xinhua news agency said
The plant in Anhui province's Tongcheng city exploded on January 9, killing 14 people, including 10 primary school students who were helping make fireworks, a local police official said.
Factory owner Li Shengsheng, who ran the plant in his house, was arrested and businessman Ding Guangyao, who provided the firework-making materials, was detained, Xinhua said.
Li had run the underground fireworks plant in a rural district of Tongcheng for 10 years, paying off a host of party, school and police officials, Xinhua said.
In addition to sacking the local communist party boss and police chief, the Tongcheng government dismissed the village's primary school headmaster and head of business administration and disciplined other local officials, Xinhua said.
A local police official, contacted by telephone, confirmed the details of the explosion but declined to comment on the arrests or dismissals.
Chinese traditionally set off firecrackers to celebrate the lunar new year or Spring Festival, which this year falls on February 16. Each year many people die in explosions at underground plants making fireworks for China's biggest holiday.
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The incidents below were contributed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
A pipe bomb exploded in the garage of a residence located in Broken Arrow. The blast killed a male who resided at this location. The Tulsa Police Department and ATF responded to the scene. A second live device was discovered next to the body. The device consisted of a 4 by 8 inch black metal pipe with clear wire. While the Tulsa Bomb Squad attempted to remotely render the device safe, it exploded. The ensuing explosion caused some property damage but no injuries. The scene and residence were searched revealing flash powder, pipe fragments, numerous prescription narcotics, marijuana, pornography, and firearms. A search of the victim's storage facility revealed a fully automatic firearm and various chemicals commonly used in the manufacture of explosives. No motive is known for this incident. It is suspected that the victim accidentally exploded the pipe bomb that killed him.
An explosion occurred in a high school classroom in Folkston, injuring 12 students. The Charlton County Sheriff's Department responded and subsequently requested ATF's assistance in the investigation. Investigators determined that the explosion was caused by an artillery grenade. One student had brought it to school and gave it to another student who dropped it while handling it, causing it to explode. The investigation revealed that the first student had brought it from home after taking it from his father's belongings. The father, a convicted felon, told investigators that he had obtained the grenade from a friend who collects brass at the Fort Stewart military firing range. Investigators from ATF, the Charlton County Sheriff's Department, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit subsequently executed a search warrant at the father's home and recovered empty artillery shell casings, four firearms, and ammunition. Federal explosives and firearms charges are pending against the father.
The Kentucky State Police requested ATF's assistance in investigating the deaths of three men. They were killed in two separate explosions in a marijuana field. ATF agents responded to the scene, along with investigators from the Kentucky State Police, the State Police Hazardous Device Unit, and the Breathitt County Sheriff's Office. Apparently, the victimss' family members became concerned when the men did not return home the night before. A search for them commenced and their bodies were discovered. The investigators learned that the three men had been killed by two separate explosions. Two of the bodies were found in a crater in one marijuana plot and the third was in a crater in another plot 100 yards away. Device fragments were collected at the scene. Matching device components were recovered from a truck belonging to one of the victims. The victims were apparently using the explosives to protect their marijuana plots, and the devices exploded accidentally.
An explosion occurred in a vehicle in Tacoma, severely injuring the driver. ATF and the Tacoma Police department responded to conduct the investigation. At the blast site, the U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit and the Tacoma Police Bomb Squad had to render safe a second device. They also recovered six M-2 grenades, six blasting caps, and three sticks of dynamite from the vehicle. The investigators learned that the driver of the vehicle accidentally discharged an M-2 grenade while driving the vehicle. The driver sustained severe head injuries and a severed hand. A quantity of methamphetamine and a rifle were also found in the vehicle. The investigators determined that the grenades were modified to be used as booby-traps.
Baltimore Sun Staff---03-20-99
By Richard Irwin
A retired Baltimore County firefighter suffered second-degree burns over his entire body when chemicals he said he was mixing to make fireworks exploded at his Woodlawn home last night, a county fire official said.
Patrick W. Monaghan, 50, of the 2000 block of Hillside Drive was in critical condition early today in the burn unit at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, a nursing supervisor said.
Monaghan retired from the Westview Station on a disability pension several years ago, said Deputy Chief Gary Warren.
Warren said the victim's wife was not
injured, but the couple's house was extensively damaged.
According to Warren, Monaghan was mixing black powder and magnesium (a lightweight metal used in making incendiary devices) in his basement workshop when they exploded about 7 p.m., blowing off Monaghan's clothes and burning his body.
Warren said firefighters found Monaghan conscious near a basement door and carried him to safety. "He told his rescuers what happened" before he was flown by Med-Evac helicopter to Bayview, Warren said.
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) --03-20-99
A man who died when he accidentally
detonated a pipe bomb in his lap was planning to use the device to destroy an abortion
clinic to keep an acquaintance from having an abortion, police said today.
Robert Keith Hill, 24, suffered massive injuries when the bomb detonated Wednesday as he apparently was finishing constructing it. A second, dormant
bomb was found in his home with a container of gunpowder.
Police and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents said Hill, who had
made comments to friends about his plans to blow up the clinic, was not part of ``a group or larger political conspiracy.''
``This did not seem to be an attack aimed at a person, but towards the facility,'' said Bob Dowlen, an ATF agent. ``From the very beginning, everything indicated that he was acting alone.''
OSSEO, Mich. (AP) (4/99)-- The explosion
that killed five people at a fireworks factory last week has been classified as
accidental, though the investigation is ongoing, fire officials said today.
The March 29 explosion at Independence Professional Fireworks Co. near Osseo could have been caused by something as simple as static electricity, said
Sgt. Ken Hersha of the Michigan State Police fire division.
Hersha said the sweep of the door as owner Robert Slayton entered the building might have been enough to ignite the explosion.
``It looks like he was just walking in the door, and that's why he was able to stagger 300 feet away on fire,'' Hersha said.
Slayton died from burns over 85 percent of his body. Slayton's wife, Patricia, and three employees died of carbon-monoxide poisoning inside the building.
The deadly blast followed a December explosion that killed seven people at the factory. Although fire officials have said that blast was accidental, they said specifics for both are still under investigation.
SHIZUOKA, Japan, April 25 (Kyodo) -- A
police officer died Sunday morning when a shell he was apparently toying with exploded at
his home in the town of Hosoe, Shizuoka Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, police said.
According to police, sergeant Masatoshi Ishihara, 44, was killed when the shell exploded at about 11:20 a.m. at the home he shared with his father Yoshio, 70.
The explosion destroyed most of the two-story wooden dwelling, police said.
The officer appeared to be fiddling with the device, which he acquired for unknown reasons, in the dwelling's garden when it went off, police said.
Police are investigating how the officer obtained the device.
In Merritt Island, FL, a self proclaimed
expert in pyrotechnics is now missing most of his right hand after miss-handling a large
homemade explosive device. The man, whose name has been withheld pending formal charges,
was attempting to assist his friend, a handicapped man confined to a wheel chair, scare
some buzzards out of his tree in his front yard. Witnesses stated that the device appeared
to have been a tubular shaped device with a very short fuse. Upon arriving at the
hospital, I discovered that the man, who we can further refer to as "Lefty," had
minor fragmentation wounds to his right thigh and hip
area, and 3 of his fingers were handed to me in a plastic bag, with the nurse telling me "he won't be needing these anymore." Lefty's fulltime career was that of a massage therapist. Upon serving a search warrant at Lefty's house, we found nearly 30 pounds of very unstable pyrotechnics, including an 8 inch aerial morter shot, a 4 inch aerial morter shot, and numerous 2 inch aerial morter shots, all stored on top of an electric clothes drier, under a bare light bulb. It should be noted that the box containing the 8 inch shot appeared very old, and there was a fine powder covering the contents of the box, which
appeared to be from one of the 2 inch shots that had burst open. Lefty will recover, obviously without most of his right hand. His only concern throughout the interview was that his credibility as a "pyrotechnics expert" has been ruined, and now no one will take him seriously when giving advice about pyrotechnics. Lefty has had no formal schooling that we are aware of, and holds no state license regarding the use of explosives.
Agent David Cox
Brevard County Sheriff's Office Bomb Squad
Merritt Island, FL.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) 01-16-00- Explosions
destroyed a home and scattered debris over a wide area of a south Kansas City neighborhood
Saturday, killing one person and setting an adjacent house on fire.
The body of the victim was found in the house that exploded, said Fire Department Deputy Chief Pat Gilchrist.
A large amount of explosive chemicals were found. Gilchrist said the type of chemicals was unknown but they appeared to be powerful pyrotechnics that would be used in making fireworks.
Fire officials said they did not know the cause of the explosions, but ruled out a natural gas leak. Gilchrist said the fire would be investigated as a crime scene.
Wood, glass and other debris littered the streets in the area. Some businesses close to the house that exploded had their windows blown out.
Witnesses reported a series of explosions.
``We thought at first someone was shooting at the house, but then there was just a real loud boom,'' said Dave Ross, who lives in the house on the other side of the exploded house.
BEIJING (AP) March 12, 2000- An explosion
in an unlicensed firecracker factory in eastern China killed 33 people Saturday and
injured 10 others, two seriously, state media said.
The explosion ripped through the workshop in a village outside Pingxiang city
Saturday morning, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The brief report said the factory, owned by two farmers, did not have a license and that the explosion's cause was under investigation.
SEE PHOTO OF FIREWORKS EXPLOSION
The above incidents are a very small sample of accidents that you can read about every day in the newspaper.
JIANHU, China (AP) -- Zhang Hongqiu is paid
$50 a month to do one of the most dangerous job in the world. She packs gunpowder by
hand into cardboard tubes at Jianhu Pyrotechnics Industry Ltd., making firecrackers the
way it has been done for centuries. An 11-year veteran of the job, Zhang knows such
work punishes mistakes harshly.
``We have to be very careful handling the powder,'' she said. ``We lift it up and put it down very slowly, and carry a small amount each time, though it takes more time.'' Fatal explosions, often in illegal workshops, are reported nearly every day in China. Despite a crackdown by authorities, tons of illegal and unsafe fireworks make it to market, where they kill or injure unsuspecting customers.
Fireworks are banned in Beijing and at least 20 other major Chinese cities for safety reasons. Many people ignore the ban, however, and streets in major cities are already crackling through the night with illegal firecrackers. Last week, authorities in Shanghai seized and destroyed more than 1,000 pounds of illegal fireworks.
Despite the danger, China lets licensed manufacturers continue because, at a time when state companies are laying off millions of workers, their trade is, well, booming. Most of the workers are women. Management prefers them to men, believing they have a lighter, safer touch with explosives.
Metal might strike sparks and cause an explosion, so most of the tools are wooden. To minimize danger further, workshops have no heat and little electricity. The director of the factory suggested authorities take steps to crack down on the illegal fireworks makers.
SEE PHOTO OF FIREWORKS EXPLOSION
This page was last updated 05/17/02 12:00 AM
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