Bakelite Blast Kills Five
Five workmen died and 22 others were injured, 16 of them critically, in a preChristmas explosion and fire that wrecked a four-story building at the sprawling Bakelite Company plant in River Road, near Bound Brook, N. J. The worst explosion in the plant’s 40-year history damaged a dozen other buildings, sent flames, smoke and debris shooting into the air and caused a fire that raged out of control for more than an hour. Property loss was said to be $500,000.
The initial blast occurred at 2:10 P.M. in the Phenolic Resins Department in Building CM, a four-story brick structure reportedly engaged in defense work. The blast was attributed to a “dust explosion.” It was explained the plant uses finely divided organic solid materials such as woodflower, a finely ground sawdust. which is one of the fillers employed in the manufacture of phenolic molding materials and which is highly explosive. A theory advanced was that the explosion occurred in a phenolic dust collector ot the molding material department. Phenolic molding material is used in fabricating radios, television sets and hand telephone sets, among other articles.
Although detailed information was not released by the company, it was believed that between 25 and 30 men were normally employed in the department.
The roof and south wall of the building were blown out, leaving much of that part of the plant a shambles of debris. Fire gutted the south wing after the explosion, but the blaze was confined to the single building. Most of the casualties were on the two top floors.
Eyewitnesses said that after the blast some workers managed to reach windowledges where they sat waiting for help to arrive, or clung to the ledges from the outside with their hands.
Shortly after the explosion, thirteen first aid and rescue squads from Bound Brook. Middlesex, South Bound Brook, Manville, East Millstone, Arbor, Dunellen, Somerville and North Plainfield began to arrive at the scene to remove the injured to hospitals. First aid was administered immediately in the plant dispensary.
Carrying out its end of a reciprocal civil defense pact, the Calco Chemical Division, American Cyanamid Company, dispatched its fire fighters, civil defense workers and first aid crew to the stricken plant.
Eight pieces of fire apparatus, four from the Middlesex, the River Road Company of Picataway, the Calco unit and Bakelite’s own fire brigade, fought the blaze and brought it under control. The big aerial ladder of the New Brunswick Fire Department rolled into the plant shortly after 2:30 P.M., under command of Captain John Moran, to aid in the rescue of two men reported trapped on the top floor of the building, however the fear-stricken men were removed from the structure a few minutes before the New Brunswick aid arrived. Bond Brook fire forces stood by ready to roll if called and local police transported masks from Calco to the scene of the explosion.
The Red Cross rushed a quantity of serum albumin for the treatment of the blast victims from laboratories in New Brunswick to the Somerset Hospital. Emergency services throughout the area were alerted.