Hudson, IA Gas Pipeline Explosion, Nov 1982


Hudson (UPI) -- A gas pipeline explosioin, which shook the ground and sent balls of flame hundreds of feet in the air, incinerated three construction workers and two conservation agents nearby.
"The bodies were blown beyond recognition," said Black Hawk County Medical Examiner Albert Dolan. The flames, which could be seen from 30 miles away, erupted when a construction crew punctured the pipeline with a backhoe Thursday.
A witness said the incinerated bodies of the conservation agents were found in a nearby pickup truck.
"The ones I saw were just bones," said Tom Davidson, a reporter who arrived after the blast.
Black Hawk County Deputy Medical Examiner Jeffrey Crandall said the bodies were identified by "circumstances, height and weight and conversations with the victims' dentists."
"There was an incridibly intense explosion.The heat was unbelievable," said Crandall, who walked through the explosion site.
"Everything, that is, he soil had reddish tinge. It was extremely crusty, almost like walking on Mars. Everything was completely dried out. The vehicles were scorched. Light metals were molten. Glass was molten," he said.
Crandall said "the only wristwatch we found read 2:20," which he thinks marks the exact time of the blast.
The dead were identified as LESTER HUISMAN, 63, and his son, MICHAEL, 26, both of Wellsburg. The elder HUISMAN was the owner of the construction firm doing the work that touched off the blast.
Another worker, CASPER NIEHAUS, 72, of Ackley, also was killed.
Two Black Hawk County soil conservation agents, DIANE RUNYAN, 34, of La Porte City and DAVE KRANAK, 26, of Waterloo, perished.
"Apparently they had some interest in tile work from the perspective of soil erosion prevention," Crandall said of the two conservation agents. "This happened in a cornfield. They were just sitting in a truck."
Mark Schildroth, who farms the land said the explosion hurled one body across the road and another into a ditch 100 feet away. One other person was found in the backhoe that ruptured the pipeline.
Northern Natural Gas spokesman Bill Greene said a crew of workers from the Huisman Excavating Co. was laying drainage tile on the 240-acre Edna Rathman farm near the Grundy-Black Hawk County lines near Hudson when a backhoe apparently punctured the underground gas line.
Greene said the 22-inch wide line runs through farm country south and west of Waterloo.
Schildroth said gas copany crews had previously marked the position of the gas line for the tile layers.
Authorities said firefighters from four communities were called to the scene and were able to shut off valves above and below the break to allow the blaze to burn itself out. It was extinguished in about two hours.
One of two firemen who wore asbestos clothing to shut off the valve, DeWayne Sevey of Waterloo, said, "The ground was shaking, there was a lot of noise and a lot of heat."
Witnesses from the Williams Pipeline Co., a few miles away, reported seeing a column of flame several hundred feet high burning at the site.

Burlington Hawk Eye Iowa 1982-11-05