Fire on the Flasher
Jack Pillar: Started as an Inspector in 1962; Later Joined the Design Workforce
The shipyard was scary at first. You’re seeing this massive steel hull. All this staging. You’ve got a hardhat on. You’ve got glasses on. You’re hitting your head everywhere because you can’t see. You’re in and out of these manholes, going through the boat.
It was just dangerous. It was an experience I had never been in before.
I was in the south yard when the guys on the Flasher got burned to death. I was in the back end of the boat where the main shaft goes out. I was doing a dye check – using a dye to look for cracks.
There were two inspectors, a welder and two painters in the aft trim tank. They were doing what they call a weld pickup. The inspectors go in and they check all the welds. If they find areas where the weld was missed or needed to be corrected they would mark it up. The welder would be down there and the two painters would be down there to clean it and do the painting after they’re done.
The welder had a torch—acetylene oxygen. He went to get something and he left the torch in the tank. He left the oxygen on. So the tank filled up with oxygen. One of the painters came out of the manhole to have a cigarette. He was half in and half out and he lit the cigarette. The tank went off. I think three of them died.
They sounded the alarm. The fire department came. They sent everybody home. After that, the rule was that any welder, anybody who had a torch, when you left the boat you had to take it with you and put it up on the staging away from the boat. Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to make it right.
The boat was launched in June 1963, five weeks after a fire in a trim tank killed three EB employees: Joseph S. Baczenski, 26; Donald Clyde Jordon, 27; and Lawrence W. Stinson, 20.