Memorial honors victims of steel plant accidents

November 18, 1993|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Fritz Schildt fell 16 feet through an open grating into a pit and was killed. Larry Flower was struck by a tractor carrying steel coils and died at the scene.

They were the most recent of 97 steel workers who have been killed in accidents at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant since 1951.

They were remembered yesterday as a monument was unveiled in a brief but solemn ceremony attended by more than 500 steel workers at the Steelworkers' union hall in Dundalk.

After the ceremony, a few relatives and friends of the victims clustered around the memorial, pointing out their names on the monument and shedding a few tears in remembrance.

"We work hard to make it safe, but we work in a dangerous environment," said Donald E. Kellner, president of Local 2609 of the United Steelworkers, which sponsored the memorial. Donations came from several steel union locals.

Mr. Schildt of Edgemere was a 59-year-old foreman and a 37-year veteran at Sparrows Point when he fell to his death Oct. 31. His wife was unable to attend yesterday's ceremony.

The widow of Jesse Wanek, who was killed in a tin mill accident in 1959, did attend the ceremony, as did the widow of Mark Zeller, who was killed several years ago when a locomotive and a fire engine collided at the plant. Both women said they were pleased by the tribute.

Larry Flower of Essex was a 58-year-old maintenance technician when he was killed Oct. 2. He had worked at Sparrows Point for 38 years.

Ted Baldwin, a Bethlehem Steel spokesman, said the injury rate from accidents at the plant, which has 5,600 employees, has dropped more than 20 percent in the last three years.

"It's extremely upsetting to our workers and management when someone is injured or killed on the job," he said. "We think the monument is a fitting tribute to their sacrifice.

"We continue to work at making it safer at the plant, and we've taken some positive steps," he said.

Bethlehem Steel added two union employees to its safety department three years ago, Mr. Baldwin said.

The company also has created 15 safety teams divided up among the departments to make safety recommendations.

"We created a joint union-management coordinating team last year to make safety recommendations," he said. "We also put three union members through six weeks of safety training, and they are now teaching others."

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