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Plant Explosion Kills Two, Injures Four; One Missing

April 14, 1994

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) _ Rescuers searched through the night and into this morning for a worker feared buried under wood chips when a pressure cooker exploded and killed two men at a paper mill. Four other workers were injured.

″It’s a big pile, and complicating the situation is the structural damage done to the building by the explosion,″ said Jim Mann, a spokesman at the Stone Container Corp. mill.

Nearly 20 workers were near the 50-foot pressure cooker, which turns wood chips into pulp, when it blew up on Wednesday, plant manager Jack Prescott said.

″It was like a balloon bursting,″ Prescott said.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately known.

Ricky Gore, 34, and Lance LeCroy, 24, were killed. Gore started work at the mill a month ago. The identity of the missing worker was not released.

Cathy Chestnut was hospitalized in guarded condition with third-degree burns. The other workers’ injuries were not life-threatening, Prescott said.

Chestnut has worked 20 years for the mill and ″was dang close to retiring,″ said her brother, Ken Carlin.

The pressure cooker is regularly inspected, and the plant has been rated the second-safest in the country for the last several years, Mann said.

Prescott said the mill would be closed while plant officials investigate. The mill employs 582 people.

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