Houma, LA Gas Explosion, Jan 1970



Houma, La. (UPI) - An explosion that killed three men and reduced half a city block to rubble was caused by gas trapped between the basement and first floors of a building, Mayor Charles Davidson said today.
Davidson said federal investigators would be joined by a team from the state fire marshal's office today in an effort to locate the air pocket where the gas collected and determine what set it off.
"We looked practically all afternoon," the mayor said. "We're trying to find where the air pocket was in the building. So far, we haven't uncovered where the actual pocket was."
He said the federal investigators, dispatched to Houma Sunday by the U.S. Department of Transportation, probably would conclude their investigation today.
Davidson said there appeared to be no connection between the explosion that splintered Latour's Jewelry Store and destroyed several other buildings and work being done on a gas leak in front of the jewelry store.
Two city workmen operating a "manhole digger" in front of the store and an assistant fire chief who was standing by with a crew were killed by the blast. Twenty-eight persons were injured.
Killed were:
HOWARD ARCENEAUX, 60, city worker.
PETER KNIGHT, 52, city worker.
Asst. Fire Chief LOREN BOURG, 56.
National Guardsmen called out after the explosion were recalled at noon Sunday. But 50 state policemen continued to patrol the area in the heart of this city of 22,561.
"I heard something rumbling, and the building started shaking like an earthquake," said Mrs. B. B. Beveridge, owner of a shoe store in the block where the explosion occurred. "I got up to try to go downstairs and at that time the thing started blowing up and everything started falling down around me." She was not hurt.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern Wisconsin 1970-01-26