New Castle News

TOP STORIES

July 7, 2014

American Cyanamid Blast, Part 3: Tears, questions and heroics all surfaced 50 years ago

NEW CASTLE — What happened?

In the minutes and hours following the deadly July 6, 1964, blasts at American Cyanamid, that question would be asked often.

What happened to cause the explosions?

What happened to co-workers who couldn’t be found?

And for employees’ families, what’s become of my husband or father?

Smithfield, Va., resident Mike Kearns was 7 years old that morning and playing outside at his Union Township home. At 10:30 a.m., he recalls “feeling the ground shake, the house shake and seeing this big white cloud of smoke rising above Union Area High and the tree line. We heard on the radio there’d been an explosion at the American Cyanamid plant, and we knew Dad was working there.”

Patrick F. “Mickey” Kearns Jr. was a carpenter at the explosives manufacturing plant, and he later would tell his family that when the first blast went off, he had taken cover under a workbench that he had built himself, and that he had been staying at the site to help with recovery efforts. But in the hours before he was able to call his family with that news, uncertainly and fear hung over the Kearns home as thick as the billowing smoke.

“It made for a long afternoon,” Mike Kearns said. “There were no cell phones around then. We’d listen for updates on the radio, but we still didn’t hear from Dad. It was a scary event for a young person like me. I had a younger brother and sister, but I don’t think they realized what was going on.

“But I sure did. You didn’t know whether your dad was going to come home that night. It was an experience you don’t forget.”

DEVASTATING NEWS

For Rich Schenker, 15, and living in New Bedford, it was a day that would change his life. His father, Donald, was one of five men killed in the explosion. And the news arrived in the worst possible way.

Schenker’s dad worked in Building 362, the stuffer house where the first of four blasts took place. Schenker’s mother was in the hospital, and his grandmother was staying with him and his twin toddler siblings.

“We didn’t know anything had happened,” Schenker said. “It might have been three o’clock, and my uncle pulled in. I was outside. My uncle didn’t come in and he didn’t stay. He just asked, ‘Is the paper here yet?’ I said ‘no,’ and he said “OK’ and left.

“I thought that was kind of weird, so when I saw the paper go, I went out and got it. I’m walking down the driveway, and I read it in the newspaper. That was the first I saw it.”

Minutes later, Schenker’s uncle returned and found him reading the paper. “He says, ‘I see you found out.’ I say, ‘yeah.’ He said, ‘Does Grandma know?’ I said, ‘No, I didn’t go in yet.’ So he went in the house, and she was putting plates on the table, and he says, ‘Mom, there’s been an accident at the mill with Don.’

“We had one of those little islands in the kitchen, and she bent over that island and she beat that table. She’s saying, ‘World War II — I get two boys come home without a scratch on them. Then this happens!’

Text Only | Photo Reprints
TOP STORIES
  • Bobby_Ferrara.jpg Ferrara comes home after life in the ring

    Former New Castle resident Bob Ferrara has spent much of his 77 years inside a boxing ring. A Pittsburgh Golden Gloves champion in 1958, Ferrara — who was known then as Bobby Ferry — continued to find success long after leaving his hometown for the sunny skies of Tucson, Ariz.

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos

  • VerySpecial.jpg Jameson Hoyt Atrium display spotlights artwork of special needs kids and adults

    Artwork from dozens of area students will take center stage Thursday in the Hoyt Atrium of Jameson Hospital. The Very Special Arts exhibit will kick off with an opening reception at 5 p.m., and the works will remain on display in the glass-enclosed walkway through Oct. 4.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • DougDanko.jpg Census shows county population getting older

    Lawrence County’s population continues to get older. However, it is not alone, as Pennsylvania overall is aging.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • backpackproject.jpg Councilman picks up tab to help lunch program

    Participants of a local summer feeding program are eating this week courtesy of New Castle City Councilman Tim Fulkerson. On Friday morning, the truck dispatched from New Castle to pick up about 3,500 pounds of items from the Pittsburgh Food Bank broke down as it arrived at its destination.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CRESTVIEW.jpg Outreach: Churches plan to host picnic for residents of Crestview Gardens

    Volunteers from several area churches are banding together in hopes of bringing peace to a troubled neighborhood.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • money.jpg Council OKs funds to remove dead trees

    New Castle City Council has approved spending funds from its contingency account to remove some trees at Darlington Park. Marshall Tree Experts of Ellwood City has given an estimate of $12,000 to remove the large elm trees from the Mahoningtown park.

     
     

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • 12.jpg Photo Gallery, Story: Night light

    The balloons may have been on the ground but spirits were soaring.

     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • StateFair.jpg 'State Fair' coming to Playhouse

    The fair is coming to town. No, not the Lawrence County Fair, although that is right around the corner. This is the Iowa State Fair, and it will be live on the stage of the New Castle Playhouse for three weeks, starting Friday night.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • accountant.jpg DeLorenzo’s status with authority unchanged

    Deno DeLorenzo’s status as a contract employee with the New Castle Sanitation Authority remains unchanged. Authority board members met with DeLorenzo last week regarding an investigation by the Lawrence County district attorney’s office involving Shenango Township funds.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Detroit area man dies in Ellwood City gunfire

    A triple shooting in an Ellwood City street has claimed the life of a Detroit area man. Gunfire erupted in the middle of Loop Street outside the Walnut Ridge housing project around 10:20 p.m. Sunday, according to state police.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Poll

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to authorize Speaker John Boehner to sue President Obama for allegedly overstepping his legal authority with the way he's handled Obamacare. Good call?

Yes. Obama's been overstepping his authority since day one in office. It's time he pay the piper.
No. The allegations are ridiculous and the law suit is a waste of time and tax payer money.
I don't know. I'm not a huge fan of Obama, but the suit seems a little extreme.
     View Results