Locals remember deadly Eastman explosion of 1960; call this 'terrible coincidence'


On this day, 57 years ago, an explosion on a much larger scale at Eastman chemical plant took the lives of 16 people.

It's a day that shook the entire region, including a family in Gate City. News 5's Tiana Bohner talked to them about how Wednesday's incident reminded them of another tragic time.

Officials at Eastman are calling it a 'terrible coincidence.' For one local couple, although Wednesday's explosions were not nearly as bad, it brings back memories of October 4, 1960.

"That was the man that lived closest," James and Ruth Lovelace pointed out their neighbor in the newspaper, who was killed in the Eastman explosion.

They still have the newspaper from 57 years ago.

"It's a very sad, every time you look at it," James said.

On the front page the next day, pictures of 13 people who lost their lives in the Eastman explosion. That toll would eventually climb to 16.

"When I saw all these people right here - these are my neighbors, my friends," James said.

The Lovelaces were at home when they heard the big bang and saw smoke pouring out of the chemical plant.

"My brother was there," Ruth said. "We couldn't hear from him for a while. But he was alright just shaken up."

At the time, most people got their news on the radio.

"We went to my sister's and watched it on TV," Ruth said. And on the anniversary of that deadly explosion, the Lovelaces spent their day in front of the TV again, watching this latest incident unfold, exactly 57 years later.

"That was amazing. Absolutely amazing. I couldn't figure that one out," the couple said.

Officials at Eastman were also stunned by the coincidence.

"October 4 doesn't pass without us at Eastman feeling deeply and remembering the events of Cctober 4, 1960," Eastman official David Golden said.

This anniversary serving as a sign that things could have been much worse.

"Today is just a stark reminder of the importance of process safety, the importance of layers of protection," Golden said.

"It really hurt us.The feeling is hurt," James said. "I never have forgotten it. That's why I'm going to keep this paper."