Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Remembering the 1975 Scunthorpe Blast Furnace Disaster
Photo courtesy of David Hebb
Thursday 4th November 2010 will be the 35th anniversary of the Queen Victoria Blast Furnace Disaster at Scunthorpe Steelworks, 11 men were killed when an explosion occurred in the early hours of that fateful day in 1975.
The Blast Furnaces at Scunthorpe are known as The Four Queens of Ironmaking, namely Mary, Bess, Anne and Vicky. It was on Vicky that the disaster would occur.
Molten Iron was poured into torpedoes ready to be transported via rail to other areas of the Steelworks.
Torpedoes were a relatively new piece of equipment in the past open top ladles had been used.
There had recently been a spate of cooling water leaks due to copper plugs having been replaced with steel ones which expanded at a different rate to the surrounding copper.
This would allow water to enter the torpedo on top of the molten Iron. Steam built up within the torpedo building up a pressure that would prove to be catastrophic.
All of this could have been dealt with but having become aware of the leak the decision was made to move the torpedo instead of allowing its contents to cool.
The molten Iron exploded covering the surrounding area with a deadly shower of molten metal.
There were 23 men in the direct vicinity when the explosion occurred. Four died instantly and seven others were to die later in hospital.
The decisions taken by the men present were nonetheless rational and blameless. All their experience up to that time suggested that the ladle could be safely moved away from the still-flowing water stream, and that leaving it in place was a more dangerous and ultimately very costly alternative.
A more detailed account of the events can be read here written by a person who knew one of the victims.
We should all take a moment to remember those that died on that fateful morning.
The disaster occurred just over a year after the Nypro explosion at Flixborough seven miles from the town. This explosion killed 28 men and flattened surrounding houses.