Brookside Village, TX Gas Pipeline Explosion, Oct 1978
TEXAS BLAST LEAVES 5 DEAD.
TRAILER PARK LIKE BATTLE SCENE.
Brookside Village, Texas (AP) -- The explosion of a natural gas pipeline into a giant blowtorch seared flesh, killed five persons and turned trailer park into a battle scene -- wrecked homes, blackened fields, and the weping, screaming injured.
"When we got here it looked like something from a war," said Frank Noe, a volunteer firefighter.
"We found the first body in the field and it was still burning. We put it out."
"I went through World War II, but I never saw anything like this."
The unexplained exlosion of the 30-inch pipline ripped through the mobile home park as its residents slept; at 3 a.m. Tuesday. At least 50 residents and rescue workers were injured, and one woman was still missing a day later. About half the 23 mobile homes at the Royal Mobile Home Park were destroyed.
At least one official feared the death toll would climb.
"Some people may have been completely incinerated from the heat and we may not find them at all," said Fire Chief Bill Wilcox of nearby Friendswood.
Jule Bertothy, the first police officer to reach the scene, said he was met by the screams of panicked residents.
"People rushed my car," the Pearland police officer said. "A lot of them were screaming, many were in shock."
The injured, he said, had "flesh dripping from their bodies like water."
All around, the rural mobile home park was a twisted mass of metal and charred ruins, steel frames and trailer home siding and burned-out cars, their paint boiled away by the furnace-like heat.
A 30-foot crater smoldered after the gas fire burned itself out some three hours after it began.
One resident described the blast, "I thought it was a tornado," said Kathie Mahaffey, who had been asleep in her trailer with her two infant daughters. "Everything started falling off the walls and I knew it was time to get out."
Others felt the same fear, but died. The five victims were found face down in an open field -- apparently fleeing for their lives.
The Brazoria County sheriff's office identified the dead as THELMA SUE HARDCASTLE JONES, 39; WILBUR HANEGAN, 61; SANDRA WORTHY, 28; FRED WORTHY, 36; and PEGGY SUE WORTHY, 4.
A fourth member of the WORTHY family, 14 year-old JAMES, was hospitalized in serious condition at the Shriners Burns Institute in Galveston.
Officers identified the missing woman as IVEY BEASLEY, about 60. Police said her frame house, near the trailer park, was razed by the blast.
Brookside Village is on the southeast outskirts of Houston in an area covered by a patchwork of oil, gas and chemical pipelines that supply a 200-mile industrial area extending from Freeport to the south and to Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange on the east.
Garden City Telegram Kansas 1978-10-25
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!