Crescent City, IL Exploding Tank Cars, June 1970
ILLINOIS TOWN IS RUINED BY FIRE, EXPLODING GAS.
Crescent City, Ill. (UPI) -- Crescent city's 800 residents lived quietly 80 miles south of Chicago's Loop. Even their three-block business district had a low profile, as they say.
Today the town was empty, its people fled from a holocaust of flame and exploding gas. And the business district had an even lower profile. It was gone.
A 108-car Toledo, Peoria & Western Railroad train rumbled through town Sunday morning. It derailed at about 6:15 a.m. Tank cars carrying liquid propane bumped along and began burning. About 7:30 a.m. an explosion involving three tank cars sent a fireball 1,000 feet above Crescent City.
In all, 12 tank cars exploded, destroying downtown and some 15 homes. At least 70 persons were injured and nine hospitalized. Damage was estimated at $2 million.
The first explosion blotted out the daylight with thick black smoke. Other explosions continued until 11 a.m. Two more tank cars continued burning early today, but officials said it did not appear they would explode.
Three-hundred firemen from about 40 surrounding communities rushed to Crescent City -- only to have to truck water in because the explosions demolished water and power lines. Many of the injured were firemen.
"It was a miracle nobody was killed," said Mayor HERBERT STERRENBERG, who estimated damage at least $2 million. "I just hope the railroad has lots of insurance."
The cause of the derailment was not officially given, but state police reported somebody sighting a "flaming hotbox" at Gilman, Ill., six miles west of Crescent City. Fire Department Capt. ORVEL CARLSON -- one of the nine persons hospitalized -- said he would check into a "possible violation" by the railroad for having tank cars carrying dangerous material hooked together instead of separated through the train.
ARMEN KORSTICK, photographer for the Kankakee Journal, was trying to photograph two firemen when a nearby tank car exploded.
"I felt like I was on fire. It was like standing in front of a bright red blow torch," KORSTICK said. He "just rolled and rolled" until he stopped behind a charred section of tank car.
KORSTICK was taken to the Crescent Hospital, about three miles from the scene. WHile he was looking back at the city, another tank car blew and another fireball rose. "It appeared to be that of an atom bomb," he said.
Sheboygan Journal Wisconsin 1970-06-22