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1965 missile accident

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posted on Sep, 30 2016 @ 08:34 PM
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On August 9th 1965, 55 civilian workers returned to missile silo 373-4, near Searcy, Arkansas. Fifty-three of them would never see home again. The workers were there to improve lighting, hydraulics in the silo, and welding blast doors. The 750 ton cover on the silo was closed while they were working. As the men were working, there was a sound like a gas stove lighting, and a flash of light, just before the lights went out in the silo.

Seventeen year old Gary Lay was on his first day of work at the silo when the fire ignited. He was able to crawl into a tunnel that led to the control room, where he met Hubert Saunders, who had crawled along a cable tunnel. They both had second and third degree burns, and were the only survivors. Fifty-two of the other fifty-three suffocated in seconds. The door at the top of the silo trapped the smoke, and pulled the oxygen out of the tube. The other, was a welder that apparently started the fire, who drowned in hydraulic fluid. The Air Force concluded that the worker was welding near a high pressure hydraulic line that he knicked, and started the fire. Gary Lay said that no one was welding on that level that day, and believes there was a short circuit that started the fire.


SEARCY, Ark. – Directions to the site of the worst nuclear weapon accident in the history of the U.S. are hard to come by.

A teenage convenience-store clerk had never heard the tale.

A cattle rancher said he thought it was “over on Clay Road.”

A utility worker said to look for a boatyard right before Arkansas Highway 305, then turn left.

www.dailyrecord.com...




posted on Sep, 30 2016 @ 08:42 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Wow- this is the first time I have heard of this- awesome (but tragic) story! Reminds me a bit of the Apollo 1 accident in several ways. Thanks for sharing this bit of history with us. Another reason to love ATS are these surprise lessons on topics that I never learned about in our fantastic public schools!
edit on 9302016 by seattlerat because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 30 2016 @ 08:45 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

All because of a welder...that's insane, and makes me think of the story my school instructor at HVAC just told me a couple weeks ago, was pretty funny.

He told me he got a job out at S2 and was coming in and had to go through a #load of checks and was cleared. When he finally got to the point of working the soldiers unloaded and checked everything and also carried it there, he just walked. When they got there a guy with a shoulder strapped rifle told him to listen up

Told him "You tell me when you move fast, you tell me when you reach for a tool, you tell me when you turn around, you understand?"

He said yep, I got it, and the guy said ok, because if you don't understand it I will shoot and kill you. Do you understand?

My instructor said "ok let's go over this again please?"


Nice story Zaphod, it's insane how the slightest unforeseen error can cause such devastation!
edit on 30-9-2016 by Vector99 because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 1 2016 @ 01:11 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Interesting I just happened to watch a documentary on this subject, one that is under consideration for an Academy Award nomination:

Command and Control.

You might be able to find it but I'm not sure where.

The interesting thing, for me, was that the Air Force had NO idea how to proceed whatsoever. After the fact, they went on to blame the 'accident' 'mishap' on trained liquid fuel techs not on a faulty system (a fallen tool should not have initiated such a dangerous situation).

It was also interesting to note that the Air Force chain of command ordered all staff to evacuate rather then work the problem.

This was a real cock-up. Another lucky break for the Air Force.

Well done documentary with archival footage, interviews with crewman, command and civilians there during the incident.

Another Nuclear film I watched this past week,also up for a nomination, is Indian Point about the reactor complex of the same name in New York and the controversy about it's continued operation. Another example of capitalism over public safety.

Another documentary, now on Netflix, and continuing the theme of capitalism over safety but with a Russian twist is City 40. The story of the USSR's Mayak Plutonium facility and the 'secret' city around it. The contamination of that city and the river (Techa emptying into the Arctic Ocean) and local lakes and it's toxic effects on several generations of residents.

City 40 calls Ozersk the most nuclear contaminated place on Earth and here I thought Hanover Washington had that distinction.

Four good documentaries to watch.
edit on 1-10-2016 by FyreByrd because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 1 2016 @ 03:23 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58


A interesting story, Zap, that I don't recall. Thanks,
but I do take issue with the headline which is factually incorrect.



posted on Oct, 1 2016 @ 03:25 AM
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originally posted by: Aliensun
a reply to: Zaphod58


A interesting story, Zap, that I don't recall. Thanks,
but I do take issue with the headline which is factually incorrect.


why is it incorrect?

You know how it goes around here...ball(proof) in your court.



posted on Oct, 1 2016 @ 04:40 AM
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originally posted by: FyreByrd
a reply to: Zaphod58
(a fallen tool should not have initiated such a dangerous situation).


Those tools are fairly heavy, and the skin of the missile is pretty thin. The tool in that incident fell some 80 feet before hitting the missile.



posted on Oct, 1 2016 @ 01:48 PM
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originally posted by: Zaphod58

originally posted by: FyreByrd
a reply to: Zaphod58
(a fallen tool should not have initiated such a dangerous situation).


Those tools are fairly heavy, and the skin of the missile is pretty thin. The tool in that incident fell some 80 feet before hitting the missile.


First not a headline nor the headline of the thread.

It was an all around design flaw. It was a circumstance that could have been easily projected as a danger (the men working on the fuel tanks had to wear heavy and clumsy suits), the circumstance on dropping a, heavy or not, tool and the danger thereof (as you say "heavy tool, long fall, thin skinned rocket) and systemic mitigation means put into place (nets ever 20 feet, tools clamped to rails, and many more. Lack of attention to 'unintended' consequences.

During Vietnam a think tank (probably Rand though I don't know for certain) did a paper on 'bombers over the north' that stated that considering all the variables no US bombers should be shot down over North Vietnam.

Well bombers were in fact shot down over the North. So they reworked their figures and came up with the same 'rational' conclusion. Finally they found the flaw in their work - they assumed that the tail gunner would be continually 'paying attention' to his job, like any machine would. Well, tailgunners are not machines and have to sneeze and scratch and be distracted. When they accounted for 'human frailty' all the numbers began to line up. The theoretical system was flawed due to incorrect assumptions. Redundancies need to be engineered into 'man-made' systems to cover such frailties either human, material, electrical or mechanical.



posted on Oct, 1 2016 @ 01:57 PM
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a reply to: FyreByrd

These accidents were inevitable. You had young guys that were barely trained, working in extremely tight environments in bulky safety gear, around chemicals that will be lucky to leave a body behind, using tools that were built for something else.

It's a miracle there weren't more of them.



posted on Oct, 1 2016 @ 04:11 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

never heard of this! I love reading old history like this....



posted on Oct, 1 2016 @ 08:58 PM
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Since the accident is a USAF accident and is considered Class A it's available from the USAF Safety Office at Kirtland AFB NM unless it is still classified for some reason. I do know some documents are exempt from automatic declassification and this may be one of them. I remember hearing about the tragedy in my teens and I don't think there ever was an exact cause pinned down but it did lead to massive changes in missile silo maintenance that continue into today. My best,



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