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Two Injured Workers Still Critical, Amoco Searches For Cause

October 31, 1988

WHITING, Ind. (AP) _ Amoco Oil Co. began its investigation Monday into a refinery explosion and fire that killed two people and badly burned two others, but did not expect to pinpoint a cause for some time, spokesmen said.

The injured workers remained hospitalized in critical condition Monday with third-degree burns.

Sunday’s explosion and fire at the refinery was the third this year at the complex south of Chicago in northwestern Indiana.

Company spokeswoman Elise Sims refused discuss the investigation or the possible cause of the accident. Results would not be available ″for quite some time,″ she said.

The company planned to interview workers, said Charles R. Mason, another Amoco spokesman.

Leo Gonzalez, 40, of East Chicago was hospitalized at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., with third-degree burns over 65 percent of his body. Robert Zivich, 44, of Dyer was at University of Chicago Hospital with third-degree burns over 30 percent to 40 percent of his body.

The explosion at the No. 3 oxydizer unit, which makes industrial asphalt for paving and roofing, instantly killed Michael Zimmerman, 44, of Hammond, a 17-year veteran of the refinery.

George Kusbel, 37, of Whiting, a shift supervisor with 14 years’ experience, died of burns six hours after the accident.

There were no other injuries.

Hospital emergency room workers had to cut through hardened asphalt up to a half-inch thick on the victims’ bodies.

The accident tied the death toll from an explosion and fire in 1955 that also injured 35 people and destroyed 70 storage tanks and 200 homes.

This year, on April 16, an explosion and small fire in a processing unit injured 16 workers. Two men were hurt Oct. 6 in a fire and explosion at a refinery unit where chemicals are added to jet fuel.

A December 1984 fire destroyed two bulk storage tanks and forced the evacuation of about 100 people.

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