Explosion at Eastman Chemical on anniversary of 1960 deadly incident at plant

KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL)- On the 57th anniversary of a deadly explosion at Eastman Chemical, the plant experienced another explosion.

Wednesday morning’s incident at the Kingsport plant brought back memories for many people who still remember the impact of the 1960 explosion.

Alex Looney was just 21 years old when the an explosion occurred at the chemical plant years ago.

Looney recalled that October day while speaking with News Channel 11 on Wednesday, saying he was golfing when he felt the ground shake beneath him.

“Then, of course, for the next several hours you heard sirens and saw all sorts of emergency vehicles,” he said.

Looney said at the time of the explosion he didn’t know how much damage it had caused, but he would later learn that friends of his, who worked at Eastman, had lost their lives to the explosion.

At the time, Kingsport Times-News reported the 1960 explosion was the worst tragedy in the city.

The Aniline Plant, which was a part of Eastman, had exploded from high pressure. Sixteen people were later reported to have been killed in the explosion, with over 200 people left injured.

Brianne Wright, City of Kingsport archivist, said that it’s eerie that Wednesday’s explosion happened on Oct. 4, the same day as the explosion 57 years ago.

“I mean it really was a local disaster, it was huge,” Wright said. “It affected a lot of people.”

During Wednesday’s news conference, Eastman Senior Vice President David Golden said today’s explosion was a “terrible coincidence” to the 1960 explosion.

The blasts Wednesday morning caused Eastman Chemical to issue multiple shelter in place advisories for surrounding neighborhoods and schools until 4 p.m., as officials from Eastman Chemical also released a statement informing people to turn off their heating and air conditioning.

No serious injuries were reported Wednesday, according to Eastman officials.

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