Thiokol-Woodbine had a fairly big one back in '71.
The first hint we got in the newsroom was a crackling from the Times-Union’s new-fangled police radio monitor.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office police dispatcher was sending patrol officers to help clear the parking lot at Duval Medical Center. That was a former name of what is today Shands Jacksonville hospital.
Navy helicopters had to land on the parking lot to pick up doctors, the dispatcher said, and fly them to Woodbine, Ga.
I called the dispatcher and asked why. The dispatcher said that a rocket plant had exploded, and there were multiple casualties.
At 10:53 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 1971, there was a devastating blast that leveled a magnesium flare assembly building at the Thiokol Chemical Corp.’s Woodbine plant. The immediate toll was 24 lives lost. Some of the victims were dismembered, which accounted for an erroneous first count of 35 dead at the scene. Another five would die of their injuries in the coming days. More than 50 workers were injured, some losing limbs. Many spent many months hospitalized.
A security guard at the plant gate, about 2 miles from the blast site, said, “It was like an atomic bomb.”
The munitions plant, constructed in 1964, was filling contracts for three Army agencies - the Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, N.J., the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland and the Army Ammunition Procurement Agency at Joliet, Ill., when the blast occurred. The Army immediately sent in teams of investigators to determine the cause of the blast. Georgia Lt. Gov. Lester Maddox flew to the site that night to inspect the devastation where Building M-132 was leveled, three other buildings were heavily damaged and seven received minor damage.
I have been around shots in mining. Anfo takes a cap and booster to light off. I don’t know what the booster is. I have been around all types of shots and fracking in the oil field. Wells are still shot today but now it’s gel, aka dynamite. The cloud from that gives you the zoomies. The orange cloud from anfo will kill you. It is the hydrogen bonds in the ammonium that make it reactive.