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10 People Hurt in Explosion at Brewer Camp : Bamberger, Dalton Among Victims in Gas Explosion

February 28, 1986|Associated Press

CHANDLER, Ariz. — A natural gas explosion sent a big ball of flame through the Milwaukee Brewers' new spring training clubhouse Thursday, injuring 10 people including the Manager George Bamberger and General Manager Harry Dalton.

Bamberger, Dalton and others were hurt trying to douse the burning clothes of third base coach Tony Muser and Jeff Sutton, a plumber.

Muser and Sutton were seriously burned.

"I was trying to get the fire out, and get people out of there as fast as I could because you never knew if there would be another explosion," said Dalton, who was released from a hospital after emergency treatment.

Tom Skibosh, the Brewers' public relations director, ran to where he heard the explosion.

"When I opened the door, Muser was on fire," Skibosh said. "George jumped on him, and (bullpen coach Larry) Haney jumped on him."

Bamberger called it a terrible explosion.

"This bolt of fire came right through the door just like it went right through me and knocked me out of my chair," Bamberger said. "Everybody was knocked to the floor . . . Larry Haney was on the floor next to me, both arms on fire.

"The workman was in the doorway going out of my office, and he's completely on fire with his hair and his back and everything," Bamberger said. "Harry Dalton, the general manager, was trying to beat that out and I jumped on him.

"We got the fire out anyway, and I got him out of the building," Bamberger said.

Muser, 38 and Sutton, 22, were flown by helicopter to the Maricopa County Burn Unit in nearby Phoenix.

Muser suffered second-degree and third-degree burns over 50% of his body and was listed in serious but stable condition at the Phoenix burn unit. Sutton suffered burns over 10% of his body, primarily on his hands and face, said hospital spokeswoman Mary Helen Valenzuela.

Herman Starrette, the 47-year-old pitching coach, was taken to the Chandler Community Hospital with first- and second-degree burns. A hospital spokeswoman said Starrette was in the hospital's intensive care unit, and was also listed in serious but stable condition.

"Horrible. It was just horrible," said rookie pitcher Chuck Crim. "I was sitting in my locker. I heard an explosion, and I saw a big ball of flame coming down the hall. It's going to be scary to go back in there."

The explosion, which occurred shortly before 9 a.m. MST, blew a four-foot hole in the clubhouse roof, witnesses said.

"Six-point-five on the Richter Scale," was how pitcher Ray Burris described it to Chicago radio station WBBM. "It felt like the building was going to come apart."

"It blew everybody off their chairs," said new equipment manager Tony Migliaccio.

The explosion originated in the coaches room in the center of the training facility. The American League team moved into the new Compadre Stadium camp Sunday.

Last year, the Brewers trained in Sun City, on the west side of Phoenix. Chandler is about 15 miles southeast of Phoenix.

Dave Petrushka, a Chandler Fire Department battalion chief, said the explosion was caused by a build-up of natural gas in the ceiling. He said authorities believed a pilot light ignited the gas.

"The injuries were sustained from the fire," he said. "The building is fully equipped with sprinklers. They came on immediately and extinguished the fire."

But he said the source of the gas leak was uncertain.

Burris said Muser was walking in the hallway at the time of the explosion, and that Sutton was working on a heater in the coaches room.

Rookie pitcher Bill Wegman, 23, and catcher Bill Schroeder, 27, were hurt while entering the hallway, witnesses said. Wegman was treated for a minor leg injury, and Schroeder for a slight stomach injury.

Haney, 43, was treated at Chandler, along with Andy Etchebarren, 42, first base coach; and Bamberger.

A 10th person, believed to be a construction worker, was treated for smoke inhalation.

Dalton, Etchebarren, Bamberger and Wegman were released after treatment.

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