Decatur, IL Tank Cars Explode, July 1974
STRING OF TANK CARS EXPLODES; 120 HURT IN DECATUR, ILL.
Decatur, Ill. (AP) -- A string of tank cars exploded and burst into flames in a Decatur railroad yard Friday, injuring more than 100 persons, causing extensive damage and widespread evacuation.
Hospitals said 120 persons were treated for injuries
and 15 victims were admitted. There were no deaths reported.
Windows were shattered several blocks away and some houses were damaged. A high school gymnasium under construction collapsed.
The first explosion at 5:03 a.m., in the Norfolk and Western Railway yards on the northeast side, derailed about 100 cars, a railroad spokesman said. Several cars reportedly contained liquid propane. The cause of the explosion was not determined and there was no immediate official damage estimate.
"It shook the house. I never felt anything like it," said Patty Calfee who lives 10 blocks from the yards. "It practically knocked me out of bed," said Audrey Hudson, who lives about 1 1/2 miles from the site. "I thought it was an earthquake."
Flames erupted over the rail yard and continued buring six hours after the first blast. There was mandatory evacuation in a one-mile radius and officials urged persons to stay at least three miles from the center of the blast.
Scores of homes and a trailer park were evacuated;
many banks and large retail stores in the downtown area closed early as a precaution. Six schools conducting summer sessions also closed.
There were no injuries at the school.
Firemen from Decatur and a dozen outlying districts kept flames from reaching boxcars loaded with dynamite and other flammable materials. Decatur, a community of about 100,000 residents, is about 200 miles south of Chicago.
The initial blast struck four liquid propane tank cars, said Payton Winfree, public relations director at the railroad's Roanoke, Va., headquarters. The force of the blast derailed about 100 railroad cars, Winfree said.
A building used as a bunk house for railroad crewmen was almost leveled but a railroad official, Paul Stitl, said, "As far as we know, everyone survived. We feel all the people got out of the dormitory."
Two members of the National Transportation Safety Council were sent to Decatur to conduct a preliminary investigation. A NTSC spokesman said the blast occurred while a switching operation was under way.
Kokomo Tribune Indiana 1974-07-20
Transcriber's Note: In reality seven persons died as a result of this disaster.
BOBBY W. OLINGER, 33, Engineer, Mexico, Ind.
CLYDE RUCKER, 26, Switchman, Mount Zion, Ill.
FRANCIS H. ENSIGN, 44, Decatur, Ill.
If someone could verify the names of the other four casualties I would like to add their names. Please let me know.