As reported Friday evening May 23, 1958 From the Waukesha Daily Freeman
10 Persons Killed In Nike Base Explosion
One Missile Blast Sets Off Reaction
Middletown, N. J. (Associated Press)
"Investigators searched a Nike Base near here today to learn what caused eight fully armed missiles to blow up in a furious mushroom of fire and death."
"The explosion yesterday killed 10 persons and scattered explosive warheads across a wide area of the countryside."
The article continues to describe "an accident that could not happen, but did."
"The accident was set off by a single missile that exploded. A split second chain reaction turned the entire area into a flaming pit of destruction that one eye-witness called horrible beyond belief."
"Mangled bodies and fragments lay strew about where a few moments before men had stood. The disintegration of the victims made it difficult to establish identities of all."
As reported in the Freeman news article, the dead included six soldiers and four civilians. Three other people were injured, one seriously. Their status, Army or civilian, was not reported.
The article continues to report two survivors in the missile storage magazine below ground.
The Launcher Section Chief and a crewman "stepped from the pit unhurt". The crewman, a Private First Class, "was treated for shock and hysteria".
The article continues to identify the missiles as Nike Ajax type, each carrying three conventional (high explosive) warheads.
Most of the explosive devices were accounted for, but some had not been located at the time that the article was written.
All eight of the missiles had left the Launching Area, flying various distances. One of the eight missiles had an unguided flight for over two miles before landing harmlessly in open terrain.
And so the reporting of the only deadly accident involving the Nike Missile System went. Of course, even one accident like this one was too many.
The dead included six soldiers and four civilians.
Sgt. DANIEL J. LAVENGOOD
Sgt. JEROME W. MOULD
SP3 WALTER E. BERRY
SP3 WILLIAM I. COCHRAN
PFC DONALD L. MARSH
Pvt. NICKLOS J. COMPOSINO
Civil Corps Civilian Victims:
JOSEPH F. BROKOS
LEE A. PARKER
Staff Sgt. JOSEPH W. McKENZIE, 33, Launcher Section Chief from Framingham, Mass
Pfc. JOSEPH ABOTT, 24, Grindstone, Pa
The drawing below is a cut away view of a Launcher Section magazine, commonly referred to as a "Pit".
Entry would be made by stairway and through an entry door at the bottom of the stairs. The magazine had two escape hatches for emergency exit to above ground.
The ready missiles were stored below ground in the magazine. They would be transported to the surface by elevator.
The modification work being done on these missiles would require that one missile at a time be brought to the surface and moved to the end of the handling rail. This one at a time rule would not prevent an accident, but would have limited the potential problem to a single missile.
Below is an article from The Waukesha Daily Freeman reporting on the accident. At the bottom of the article there is a cut away drawing of a Nike Missile magazine showing the underground storage area for ready to launch Nike Missiles.