Pete Coor was in his office on South Tacoma Way, watching a football game on TV Saturday, when he heard a loud boom.
He grabbed his camera and ran outside. Just then, explosions from the Atlas foundry across the street ripped through the air. The last one knocked him on his back.
He looked up and thought, “I’ve missed the photo opportunity of a lifetime.”
Then he got up and ran.
He owns Coor’s Fire Protection Service at 1714 South Tacoma Way. He was watching the Tennessee-Georgia game when the lights flickered and went out about 3 p.m. When he heard the first boom he thought at first that someone had hit his van.
Then he spotted a raging fire at the Atlas Castings & Technology foundry. He grabbed his camera, ran outside and started taking photos.
Five or six men came out of the foundry and ran down South Tacoma Way. “They were running for their lives,” Coor said.
He heard three more explosions in succession, all smaller than the first. He got down on one knee in the street, snapping photos. A thought crossed his mind: “I wonder if there will be a big one.”
Just then, another explosion, much larger than the rest, sent a fireball hundreds of feet in the air.
It shattered the windows in a neighboring car dealership and tire store. It blew burning tires and big concrete chunks out of the foundry.
Coor saw the expanding fireball.
“It was a mushroom ball of flame coming toward my head,” he said. “I got up and ran for my life.”
He ran uphill, through brush, toward Interstate 5. The brush badly scratched him, so he stopped momentarily.
“Why am I running in here?” he wondered. Then he saw debris raining down on South Tacoma Way and all around him. Some of it flew out of sight.
“I was afraid it was going to get me.”
Coor ran some more before stopping when he thought it was safe.
Taking stock later, he said he was having trouble hearing out of his right ear but his clothes were intact.
“I don’t have much hair,” he said, “but I haven’t looked in a mirror to see how much is left.”
Rob Tucker: 253-597-8374