At least one dead, dozens injured in Ford plant explosion
February 1, 1999
DEARBORN, Michigan (CNN) -- At least one worker was killed and at least 16 were seriously injured when an explosion ripped through a Ford Motor plant Monday afternoon, officials said.
Company officials say that at least three other employees remain unaccounted for.
Clouds of black smoke and bursts of red flames billowed for several hours above the Ford Rouge Plant Monday following the blast, which occurred about 1 p.m. in a power plant boiler, fire officials said.
"A great tragedy has occurred," William Clay Ford Jr., chairman of Ford Motor Co. said. "We think it is under control now. The crews are working hard and we have the right people on the scene."
Ford confirmed that at least one worker had been killed and that rescue officials were still trying to account for some of the workers in the area of the blast. It is not known if those missing have been hurt, or if they fled the building and the area, he said.
Oakwood Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer George said 13 people had been brought in with "priority one" injuries -- the worst you can get." She described most of the injuries as burns. Rescue officials said at least 23 people had been taken to hospitals with injuries.
Francine McBride at Ford said the "number three boiler in the power house" at the plant is believed to have exploded. The entire plant was left without electricity.
A worker, who said she was calling from the Rouge office building, said "a major fireball went about a quarter mile up in the air" after a loud explosion. She also said the explosion shook the plant "like an earthquake."
Ford said when he walked up to the plant "my heart sank. I feel like everyone who works here is a member of my family."
Another eyewitness said he thought the explosion and fire looked like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
About a dozen ambulances lined the streets around the site. Sleet and rain were hampering rescue officials attempting to remove the injured and fight the fire.
Ford's Rouge plant is the home to the Ford Mustang and steel operations. The plant is located on a sprawling complex covering more than a thousand acres. In its heyday in the 1940-50s, 85,000 worked there. Currently, 8,000 employees work at the facility.
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