Iowa City, IA Propane Explosion, Jan 1975
2 KILLED IN PROPANE BLAST.
Iowa City, Ia. - Two workers were killed and three others were injured in a propane gas explosion and fire Thursday that destroyed a refrigeration unit at the terminal of the Mid-America Pipeline Co. four miles east of here.
The victims were identified as TERRY GUTHRIE, 28, of Iowa City, and TONY BRYANT, 29, of West Liberty, both employed at the terminal as maintenance men, the Johnson County Sheriff's office said.
Three Mid-America employees remained hospitalized Thursday night - one in critical condition - in the burn unit of University Hospitals here.
Most seriously injured with second and third degree burns was LEONARD ELLIOTT of rural West Branch, officials said.
Also injured in the explosion was RICHARD J. SABOURIN of North Liberty, listed in serious condition, and RONALD DIGNEY of West Liberty, listed in fair condition.
10 Miles Away.
A roaring ball of flames from the Mid-America terminal - a division of Mapco, Inc., based in Tulsa, Okla. - was reportedly seen as far as 10 miles away after the explosion shook the area about 1:30 p.m.
Although the fire raged dangerously close to storage tanks and a loading dock at the terminal, no one in the surrounding area was evacuated.
Firemen said they were aided by southerly winds that kept the flames and smoke blowing away from equipment in the terminal.
The explosion has been blamed tentatively on a malfunctioning refrigeration unit installed a year ago at the Iowa City complex.
Gilbert V. Rohleder, a Mapco vice-president, said the "chiller" unit used to keep vapor pressure stabilized failed "for no apparent reason." He said pressure gauges on the unit were normal at the time of the explosion.
The two maintenance men killed in the fire were injecting the chemical methanol into the unit just before the blast, Rohleder said.
Firemen were unable to remove the charred bodies of the victims until after the flames subsided.
Des Moines Register Iowa 1975-01-24