1940 - BLAST KILLS 8.
Woodbridge, N.J., Nov. 12. - (AP) - A mysterious, deafening blast shattered 14 buildings in and adjoining the United Railway Signal Co. plant today, killing eight persons and breaking windows 17 miles away in Bayonne.
Five dead, four of them women employes, were carried out of the smoking ruins by rescue crews working in a steady rain.
Two other women workers died in hospitals.
Then the torso of another victim, also a woman, was found late today, blown 1,000 feet from the plant by the explosion.
The company had no government contracts and the possibility of sabotage was discounted by all investigators. Nevertheless, a three-way inquiry was started immediately by agents of the Department of Justice, the Middlesex coprosecutor's office and local police.
Hugh W. Kelly, president-owner of the plant for 20 years, estimated damage at $50,000 and announced plans to rebuild soon. The company manufactures railroad signal torpedoes, flares and similar equipment.
He had no reason to suspect sabotage, Kelly said, "unless someone mistakingly suspected us of being engaged in government work."
Representative J. Parnell Thomas (R-NJ), a member of the Dies committee, said at Newark that "explosions will continue until the Federal Government gets hard boiled."
Thomas said the Federal Government "should cooperate with the employers so that they can get tough about whom they hire and fire. Employers are scared to death to act because they fear that the National Labor Relations Board will crack down on them."
The unidentified torso was found by a cleanup crew of 100 prisoners from the county workhouse under the direction of Warden C. A. Butterworth. It lay in a meadow.
The other dead:
MRS. LEOLA HANSON, 30, Perth Amboy.
DOMINIC LA PENTA, 65, Woodbridge, father of 14 and laborer at the adjoining Middlesex Water Co. storehouse, only a shell of which was left standing.
MRS. ROSE SERNECK, 38, Port Reading.
MISS VIOLET BYLECKIE, 21, Port Reading, Mrs. Serneck's sister.
MRS. MINNIE D. BECK, Metuchen.
MRS. SOPHIE HUBER, 54, Port Reading.
A second unidentified woman.
The explosion indirectly caused a ninth death, that of THEODORE EGGERTSON, 46, of Piscatawaytown, secretary of the Raritan safety council. The truck he was driving on a rescue mission to the signal plant skidded and struck a pole in Bonhampton. EGGERTSON died in a New Brunswick hospital.
More than a score of persons were injured by the explosion, several of them critically.
The blast dug a crater six feet deep and 20 feet in diameter, lifted a passing automobile from the street, wrapped sections of heavy wire fence around poles and automobiles like so much mosquito netting, and made the homes of a dozen families unfit for residence. The Red Cross provided lodging for those needing it.
One casualty was MRS. NELLIE WESTERGUARD, 43, of Rahway, the plant superintendent. Volunteer blood donors were called in an effort to save her life.
Also among the injured was MRS. FRANCES SUPETA, of Carteret, another sister of Mrs. Serneck.
November 13, 1940
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