Re: 50 MB in the '80s?
That same scenario was quoted to me by my chief programmer at my very first job as the reason a certain operations manager was told never to touch actual machinery again and his position respecified to an all-paperwork and supervisory role.
Same kit too. Must have been an institutional thing.
I was told by an engineer that if the big red "FAULT" light ever came on with an ICL eleven-high pack drive, it was critical to leave the room at once and punch the Big Red Off Switch as you went (machine tool factory, cast iron Big Red Off Switches were everywhere).
So while I find the original story to have many questionable details, exploding disk drives are possible under *some* conditions. At least, our chief ICL site engineer felt so.
Tape spools would fall to bits at speed at the drop of a hat, as I recall.