Roseburg, OR Explosion, Aug 1959
Roseburg Blast Kills 9, Hurts 52
ROSEBURG, (AP) - A truck loaded with 6½ tons of explosives blew up with shattering force here early today. At least nine persons were killed.
The coroner's office at one time reported 10 dead but said later one body found in the debris had been erroneously listed as two.
Buildings were smashed and a raging fire spread over the downtown area in this city of 12,200.
In the truck were two tons of dynamite and four and a half tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer with explosive nature that caused the Texas City, Texas, disaster a number of years ago.
The blast came soon after fire was discovered in a building beside which the truck was parked, three blocks from the center of the business district.
FRED MUNZ, controller of Pacific Powder Co., at Tenino, Wash., identified his truck's cargo as dynamite and ammonium nitrate.
The force of the blast was so great it bowled over people walking several blocks away, crushed walls of buildings, and damaged numerous houses and small apartments.
HOSPITALS said they had 52 patients, several of them in critical condition. Blood plasma and physicians were flown from nearby Grants Pass.
A coroner's deputy said some of the dead would be identified only through dental records.
Asst. Fire Chief ROY McFARLAND and HARRY CARMICHAEL, about 50, were identified at the outset as among the dead. Policeman DONALD DE SUES, 32, was seen standing near the truck shortly before the blast and was reported missing afterward.
THE CORONER'S office said it could identify four of the bodies as men but could not say immediately whether the others were men or women, they were so heavily charred.
The fire, fought by men and equipment from as far away as Eugene, 75 miles north, was controlled some four hours after the blast came at 1:20 a. m.
There was a crater 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep where the truck, from Pacific Powder Co., Tenino, Wash., had stood.
THE TRUCK blew up moments after the fire siren had sounded the alarm for a blaze at the Gerretsen Building Supply Co. building, beside which the driver had parked it while he got a cup of coffee.
The driver, GEORGE RUTHERFORD, Chehalis, Wash., said he was walking back toward it and was knocked down by the blast. He was hospitalized, with injuries believed not critical.
Volunteer fireman TONY SHUKLE said he was knocked down too, blocks away. He got up, he said, and "the sky was red with embers." Then, he said, fire began to spread.
"There was fire all over," he said, "the big one and probably four or five small ones."
For a time there was fear that a propane gas storage tank might explode but firemen cooled it with water.
At the height of the fire the six-story Umpqua Hotel's 65 guests and employes were evacuated.
The manager, DICK SMITH, said that at his home, two miles away, windows were blown out.
As the flames spread they caught a building beside which a railroad tank car of propane gas was parked. After early fears that it might explode, firemen said they had it cooled down and danger was averted.
Roseburg, 185 miles South of Portland, is at the heart of the Douglas fir lumber industry. Lumber and building supplies occupied several buildings in the stricken area.
Surveys of damage showed serious losses distant from the blast. Jewelry store display windows, three blocks from the blast were thrown into the street. Bank doors were blown down.
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