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Tons of Molten Steel Spill; Six Hurt

January 25, 1990

WHITESVILLE, Ind. (AP) _ More than 100 tons of molten steel at 2,850 degrees splashed across the floor of a steel mill when a giant ladle crashed to the floor, smashing two walls, setting fires and injuring six.

The accident Wednesday at the Nucor Corp. mill was the second caused by breakdowns in the ladle apparatus in 15 months.

Michael Hinz, who suffered minor injuries, said he was driving a crane, guiding the ladle, when a cable broke and the ladle dropped 30 feet.

″When it hit, steel splashed, knocking a hole in one wall. A blast of heat knocked out another wall in the furnace room,″ Hinz said. The concussion blew him off his seat, and slag shattered his crane window.

″I guess if there’s a nightmare, that’s a crane operator’s nightmare,″ Hinz said.

Six workers suffered burns and other injuries, and one was in serious condition Thursday, officials said.

Damage was estimated at about $50,000, Keith Busse, general manager and vice president of the $270 million plant, said Thursday. The plant, which employs 300, processes scrap steel for new uses.

Busse said the mill would remain closed until the weekend while siding is put over a 40-hole in a wall and equipment checked out.

About 35 firefighters used extinguishers to put out burning debris, including bags, crates, boxes and other packing materials, said Crawfordsville Fire Chief Dennis Weir. He described the spill of molten steel as looking ″like what happens when water is dropped on a hot skillet.″

A problem with the ladle was blamed for a fire in the same building Oct. 12, 1988, Weir siad.

Most seriously hurt was Pat Major, 37, of Valparaiso, an employee of a contractor at the plant. He was in serious condition Thursday at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis with burns over 70 percent of his body, a spokeswoman said.

Eugene Ruark, 33, of Tangier was in good conditon at AMI Culver Union Hospital in Crawfordsville with second- and third-degree burns on his hands and back. Four other workers, including Hinz, were treated there and released.

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