On Tuesday, Jan. 3, 1961, the three young operators were called in to restart the reactor after its 11-day holiday shutdown. The rules demanded that the control rod be slowly pulled out by four inches—but for some unexplained reason, Byrnes pulled it up swiftly by more than two feet, causing the reactor to surge instantly to a state known as prompt critical—to, in effect, blow up.
In milliseconds the entire atomic pile melted, disintegrated, and was hurled upward nine feet, smashing Navy specialist Legg, who was standing on the top, into the concrete ceiling, impaling him on a bolt. A vast amount of radiation was released, and when the fatally injured trio were found, they first had to be covered in lead and their bodies eventually kept under guard in lead coffins. (It took more than a week to remove the impaled man, employing a lead-shielded crane and rescuers who could spend only a minute each in the reactor building.) When one of the trio was buried, his family asked to see the coffin: permission was only granted when they agreed to rush through the funeral in five minutes.
Crazy story on the death’s of three servicemen from a nuclear meltdown in America. Some suspect it was a murder-suicide.