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Marshall's Creek, PA Nitrate Truck Explosion, June 1964

Marshalls Creek PA Memorial Placque.jpg



Marshalls Creek, Pa. (AP) -- A truckload of explosive nitro-carbo-nitrate and dynamite blew up just before dawn Friday killing six persons, injuring at least 10, and freeing hundreds of snakes, some poisonous.
The truck carrying 15 tons of explosives caught fire and exploded. The blast dug a crater 10 feet deep and 40 feet wide, a few miles south of this Pocono Mountain resort town.
A reptile farm was ripped apart freeing the snakes, a tourist attraction. Police stalked them with revolvers and reported most were killed. An emergency shipment of antidote was rushed to the scene, although there were no reports of snake bites.
Killed in the explosion that rattled homes, breaking windows and doors for miles around were three volunteer firemen, a truck driver who stopped at the scene, a woman riding in a station wagon, and a vacationing teacher.
The explosives aboard the truck first were reported to be ammonium nitrate mixed with diesel oil and dynamite. However, a spokesman for American Cyanamid Co., owner of the truck, reported that the truck carried 25,000 pounds of nitro-carbo-nitrate, a blasting agent known as NCN and 4,000 pounds of dynamite.
ALBERT KODA, 51, of Port Carbon, Pa., driver of the truck, told state police he was driving along Route 209 when his two right tires blew. He said he pulled off the road and parked alongside a parking lot in front of the reptile farm.
KODA was quoted by State Police Lt. Albert Wada as saying he unhitched the tractor and then fell asleep. When he woke up he went for help. Wada said KODA told him when he left there was no fire.
WILLIAM PAESCH, 30, of Baltimore, Md., was driving past with his wife when the truck exploded.
Sitting along side him she was killed.
"I saw flames and in no more than a matter of seconds I saw a large, red glow and heard an explosion," PAESCH recalled.
"I've never seen an atomic explosion, but that's what I thought it was," PAESCH told newsmen at a hospital in nearby Stroudsburg.
"My wife gave a groan and then everything in the whole area was terribly quiet."
PAESCH said he tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitationon his wife but to no avail. She was dead on arrival at the hospital of an apparent concussion.
The three volunteer firemen were identified as FRANCIS MILLER, 50; LEONARD MOSIER, 48, and EDWARD HINES, 48. Also killed was JOHN REGINA, 22, Marshalls Creek, son of the owner of a hotel a few hundred yards from the scene, and JOSEPH HORVATH, 25, of Scranton, a coal truck driver.
JOHN FLORIO, 21, Pleasantville, N.Y., said he was watching the firemen fight the truck blaze.
"The next thing I knew the truck blew up and bodies were flying as high as 20 feet in the air," he said.
FLORIO, who was driving to Steubenville, Ohio, was treated for head and knee injuries and released.
MRS. RUTH LIVINGSTON, 51, was injured when the trailer in which whe lived at the reptile farm collapsed from the blast. It took 20 minutes to dig her out of debris. Her husband, also injured, is the owner of the reptile farm.
ROBERT SHIVE, 32, of Sellersville, Pa., also a truck driver treated and released, said he was stuck in a line of traffic stalled by the fire "when all of a sudden all hell broke loose."
WALTER BALSZEY, 46, Red Bank, N.J., staying at a motel one mile to the north, said he was sleeping when he heard the blast. Doors were forced open and windows shattered at the motel. He said he went to see what happened, saw the fire and spotted LIVINGSTON crawling out of the trailer debris. He helped dig out MRS. LIVINGSTON.
THe explosion came shortly after 4 a.m. in this small community of 250, situated about equi-distant between New York City and Philadelphia near the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania state lines.
The American Cyanamid spokesman said the cargo of explosives was enroute from the firm's Pottsville plant to a construction site in Fosterdale, N.Y.
Only twisted wreckage remained of the three fire engines. Nothing was left of the truck carrying the explosives except some metal slivers. Damage reportedly was expected to run close to half a million dollars, including a demolished school valued at $286,000.

Marshalls Creek, Pa., (AP) -- Here is a list of the known dead in the truck fire and explosion near here Friday.
FRANCIS MILLER, 50; LEONARD MOSIER, 48, and EDWARD HINES, 48, all volunteer firemen at the Marshalls Creek fire station.
MRS. WILLIAM PAESCH, 30, Baltimore, Md.
JOHN REGINA, 22, Marshalls Creek, son of the owner of the nearby Regina Hotel.
JOSEPH HORVATH, 25, Scranton, a truck driver.
The injured:
MRS. RUTH LIVINGSTON, 51, Stroudsburg, R.D. 1., not seriously.
RICHARD McDONOUGH, 40, assistant fire chief, Marshalls Creek, in serious condition.
ROBERT HEID, 33, East Stroudsburg, R.D. 1, volunteer fireman at Marshalls Creek, in serious condition.
MRS. MARIAN SHERMAN, 32, East Stroudsburg, R.D. 1, in fair condition.
WILLIAM PAESCH, 30, Baltimore, Md., treated for cuts and bruises and released.
JOHN FLORIO, 21, Pleasantville, N.Y., treated for cuts and bruises and released.
THEODORE REGINA, East Stroudsburg, R.D. 1, minor injuries.
ROBERT SHIVE, 32, Sellersville, Pa., truck driver.
ROBERT RUPPERT, 34, Bethlehem, Pa., truck driver.
ANTHONY MONFREDI, East Stroudsburg, R.D. 1, treated and released.

The Morning Herald Uniontown Pennsylvania 1964-06-27


Snake farm expolsion

I had just started working for the summer at Bernd's Hotel Germond and Cottages when the explosion took place. A piece of burning tire broke through the window of my cottage and landed on my bed. I woke up to sirens and lights and was told to move to the main building...with a warning that poisonous snakes might be anywhere in the lawn. My parents came to get me that afternoon and my career in the hotel industry was over.I haven't been back since. Is the hotel still there?

article | by Dr. Radut