Five Fire Victims Were Trying To Speed MX Stage Production
BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (AP) _ Morton Thiokol was trying to speed up production of the MX missile’s first stage motors when a flash fire killed five workers, the company said Tuesday.
The Dec. 29 fire destroying an assembly building at the plant’s strategic operations area 25 miles west of Brigham City, killed four of the workers instantly and fatally burned the fifth.
Morton Thiokol spokesman Rocky Raab said that while recent deliveries of MX motors under an $80 million Air Force contract had been on schedule, earlier deliveries had been ″somewhat late.″
The company wanted to build a reserve of the solid-fuel, first-stage motors, and the production crew apparently was trying to ″get a little bit ahead″ at the time of the fire, Raab said.
Despite past delays, the Air Force had always built in a sufficient ″pad″ to make sure finished missiles were delivered on schedule to their silos in Wyoming, he said.
Investigators believe the fire ignited while the workers were removing a solid-fuel casting from the missile’s first stage.
Raab said investigators had nothing to report on their probe but may make statements soon.
Philip Dykstra, vice president and general manager of Morton Thiokol’s strategic operations, has said static electricity was one of many possible fire causes being investigated. Officials have declined to identify other potential causes.
All work on MX production has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. Raab said production schedules probably would not be much affected unless safety problems with the fuel-loading procedure are found.
Separate company and Air Force teams are investigating, looking at the crew’s work logs, documentation, written procedures, tooling and the remains of the building in an effort to learn what was being done and what ignited the motor.