Charlie Morecraft and details of 1980 New Jersey Exxon refinery fire [new title]

The other day we watched a video at work with Charlie Morecraft, a refinery worker who was badly burned in a New Jersey Exxon refinery fire in 1980. Those of you who have seen the presentation surely remember it, as Charlie did a very effective job of presenting himself as the ultimate cause of his suffering. I was moved.
Anyway, I remember little of the incident and can’t find any details. I’m interested in exactly what led up to it. When I google I get lots of stuff about his company, and the presentations, plus a lot about other refinery fires, but nothing specific about that fire.
Charlie mentioned that there was a problem with an apparatus that could cause an additive to leak, and that Exxon had worked up a procedure to address the problem untill it was fixed. Charlie didn’t follow the procedure while working with a blind, and a leak and fire resulted.
I’ve worked in and around refineries most of my life and I’m interested in the history of that problem, and exactly what the problem was.
FTR; a “blind” is a device inserted into a pipe flange to stop the flow of a substance through the pipe. Some (most) look like this one.
Thanks, and peace
mangeorge (not a pipefitter).

I work for a web service that has a database of several thousand newspapers and magazines. Our content collection for most stretches back to the 80’s, and some back into the 70’s. We’re talking millions upon millions of news articles.

However, a search for Mr. Morecraft’s name reveals nothing before 1998. All the articles are as you described – plenty about his business and speaking tours, nothing about the actual accident. Odd.

Is it possible the fire was covered, but he personally wasn’t seen as significant. As in a new report where it was just said “a fire at a New Jersey Exxon refinery yesterday resulted in the injury of over a dozen workers”?

I also searched every combimation of the refinery name, refinery fires in general, and osha links. And I searched all I could find about New Jersey in the early '80’s.

He gave a safety talk at the factory I work at, and from what I remember a few of the details were different. IIRC, he said it was the vehicle he drove up in, and left running, that sparked the leak and/or fumes. Procedure was to shut off engines, use blinds, wear personal protection equipment, yadda yadda and he violated all of those safety rules, any one of which might have prevented mucho damage. He kept hammering the point of how redundancy in safety is a good thing and what an utter mook he was, since he disregarded all the rules to be “cool”.

Without sounding gruesome or anything, I had a hard time reconciling the extent of the injuries with the lack of scars. He made this exhaustive listing of being covered in 3rd degree burns, the going into shock again and again since so much of his body was burned, multiple surgeries trying to keep the tendons in his hands viable, etc. He did say he’d had painful skin grafts on his arms, and his arms did have scars you’d expect, but he described the fire as dousing him with burning fuel additive, making him a human torch from the crotch up. No facial scarring, no hair loss, nothing on the neck or chest visible from his V-neck…and no mention of corrective surgeries or even grafts.

Just to let you know: I’ve changed the title of the thread to make it more descriptive.

moderator GQ

Oh lord, saw this and thought the great Bibliophage had come in to smite my ass for IMHOing in GQ, whew!

Thanks. I do tend to be a little terse.

That’s mostly as I remember it, except that he said (for sure) that Exxon knew of a problem, but put a procedure in place to address that problem until the next shutdown. I don’t remember his words, but IIRC, he stated that there had been opportunity to do it sooner but that cost was an important factor in delaying the fix. I got the feeling that it had been a while. That’s the fact (or not) I’m seeking. His enthusiasm for taking the blame and totally absolving Exxon raised BS alarms for me. So I’m looking for facts.