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Explosion at Acetylene Plant Rocks Downtown

April 13, 1990

SAND SPRINGS, Okla. (AP) _ An acetylene bottling plant exploded early Thursday, spraying debris more than 200 feet and temporarily cutting power to more than 3,000 people in three counties, authorities said.

At least three people were injured, none seriously, hospital spokesmen said.

″The magnitude of that explosion was as loud as one imagines a bomb, and the earth shook like we were having an earthquake,″ said Larry Cale, principal of Boyd Junior High School.

″There was a lot of metal flying,″ said Fire Chief Fred Shawger. ″It was a metal building which just blew up and sprayed shrapnel.″

The explosion at the Big Three Industries’ plant threw sheet metal over nearby power lines, knocking out electricity to Public Service Co. of Oklahoma customers from Sand Springs, just west of Tulsa, to near Bartlesville, 46 miles north of Tulsa, said utility spokesman Brian Miller.

Miller said power to all but 200 customers was restored within the hour.

Shawger said officials evacuated about a half-mile area around the plant for about an hour because of the potential of other explosions.

Witnesses said windows were shattered at businesses near the plant and insulation from the plant’s ceiling fell like snow.

″It was kind of exciting. Windows were shaking dramatically and debris was falling in the street,″ said Richard Berumen, principal of Pratt Elementary.

The plant filled steel tanks with acetylene, primarily for use by welders.

Plant officials were at the scene and not available for comment, said salesman Al Martin, who works in the company’s Tulsa office.

Bill Isham, an employee at a nearby Kerr Glass plant where two people were injured, said he was driving into the parking lot when the explosion occurred. ″The explosion blew my pickup about a foot off the ground,″ he said.

The explosion also damaged the ceiling at Morrow-Gill Lumber Co., which is about a half-mile away from the plant, said manager Tom Watson.

″When the blast occurred, the percussion of it came inside the building, raised the ceiling up and dropped it,″ he said. ″We’ve got eight-foot fluorescent lights on the floor. It completely tore down part of the ceiling and warped all of our ceiling structure.″

Sue Clark of the city public works office, which is about 300 yards from the plant, said employees thought their building had exploded.

″Stuff fell out of the ceiling and the floor shook, so we ran out of the building,″ she said. ″There was just black smoke and debris coming up in the air.″

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