Tribute paid to Nypro disaster hero who prevented more devastation

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 10 Nov 2017

AWARD-winning North Lincolnshire hero John Alexander Smith, whose bravery saved the area from further devastation in the 1974 Nypro chemical plant explosion, has died.

Barton-Upon-Humber-based professional celebrant Philip Spicksley recently conducted the funeral service of John Alexander Smith, who passed away, aged 81, after a five-year illness.

Mr Smith was a Superintendent of the Boiler Plant at Flixborough’s Nypro works on that fateful day in June 1974, when an explosion ripped through the plant.

Hearing the blast, he opened the door of the boiler house, and was seriously injured by flying masonry. However, he battled on and managed to reach the gas shut-off tap, which he secured – ensuring no further explosions. His actions were officially recognised when he received a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.

Mr Smith, who is survived by widow Marie, children Alistair, Heather and Gina, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren, was born in Glasgow. One of three children, he was raised during the Great Depression and was a child during the Second World War – surviving the continual bombing of his home city.

Being called up for National Service brought him to Sandtoft, where he met his wife Marie. After a year apart, when he returned to Glasgow, they married in 1957 and started their life together in Ashby.

His first career in North Lincolnshire was at Redbourn Steelworks and the couple were regular visitors to dancing nights at the Redbourn Club and Polish Club. Mr Smith also enjoyed competing with local amateur cricket and football clubs. It was at that time that John joined Nypro.

Mrs Smith remembers the day of the explosion and the dreadful wait for news. She said: “I knew he was at work, but did not know what had happened for hours. The phone lines were all down and with no way of getting in touch, we just had to wait – I went numb.

“It wasn’t until about 7.30pm when he came home. He had stitches all over his head, but he would not stay in hospital – that was just the kind of person he was.”

Following his recovery, Mr Smith returned to work at British Steel in Scunthorpe and the couple then moved to Barton, where they settled for 17 years.

Mrs Smith has fond memories of their time together in the town, along with the holidays they enjoyed.

She said: “We visited Spain where John enjoyed walking, sightseeing and experiencing the culture of the areas. But he enjoyed seeing Cornwall even better and loved to drive down to the West Country.

“John really enjoyed being a special grandparent and we all have very happy memories of our time together.”

John, who passed away after a short stay in Hull Royal Infirmary, had been struggling with his health after developing COPD five years ago.

The funeral service was arranged by H & HJ Huteson & Sons at Barton.

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