Big Maywood Blast Felt 5 Miles Away
Tuesday, April 30, 1968
$500,000 Damage to American Can Co.
by Thomas Powers - May 1, 1968
The compound mixing building of the American Can Company plant in Maywood exploded early yesterday with the roar that rocked western suburbs, awakening some residents 5 miles away.
Fire which followed the explosion and smaller blasts destroyed and story and one-half, 150 by 150 foot building at 14th street and St. Charles road, causing $500,000 damage.
No one was in the building at the time and 200 other workers in the main plant and residents around the area escaped injury.
Windows Are Shattered
Hundreds of windows in the main company plant and several dozen windows in the adjoining houses were shattered but the blast which hurled half-ton steel doors from the side of the big building and into an employes parking lot 100 feet away and threw large chunks of steel reinforced asphalt roof into nearby yards.
State Fire Marshal William J. Cowhey said that if the first explosion which occurred at 5:55 a. m. had happened an hour later, there could have been a “terrible” loss of life as the parking lot would have been filling up with workers starting the day shift.
Maywood Fire Chief Henry Baethke said the cause of the explosion and fire was unknown. Cowhey assigned Deputy Marshals Joseph Vallee and William O'Brien to interview six employees who work in the compound building.
Gate Found Open
This was done after a witness reported seeing a station wagon parked near the building shortly before the blast. The back gate of a fence around the building was found open.
Carl Ryberg, 54, of 1848 Camp st., Berkly, supervisor of compound building employes, said he was four blocks away from the building when it exploded. "Originally, I get these at 5:45 a. m. but this morning I was late and now I'm happy I was because I would have been killed," he said. His employes start work at 7 a.m.
The building is used to manufacture sealing compounds used to close spray-type cans. The sealants are highly volatile and the building is equipped with explosion proof electrical devices and exhaust fans to remove fumes in the event of leakage, Cowhey said.
Altho the building was designed to release explosive forces through the roof and through windows on the side, the explosion was so severe that is shattered 16 inch thick wall into 4 and 5 foot long sections. Wooden beams, lengths of pipe and other debris were strewn around the area.