Van Wert, OH Propane Gas Explosion, Aug 1965


Van Wert, Ohio (AP) -- A giant propane gas fireball, apparently touched off by a passing train, killed a 9-year-old girl, injured eight persons and seared a 100-acre Saturday.
"There was this big explosion, and all the windows broke," said Mrs. Merrill Wilkins, who lives 800 yards from the pipeline which flashed into flames visible for 40 miles with a roar that was heard up to 60 miles away.
"There was glass everywhere."
The rural area nine miles southwest of Van Wert looked like a scorched war zone. "Not a green thing was left in sight," reported Jerry Ryan of radio station WERT.
All the casualties were in the house nearest the blast scene 300 yards away. NANCY ANNA MAY RIGDON, asleep with the rest of her family, was killed.
In critical condition were her mother, MRS. PRISCILLA RIGDON, 29, and 7-year-old sister, ANNA MARIE. Her 11-year-old twin brothers, DAVID and DANIEL, have been taken off the critical list.
Less seriously injured were three other RIGDON children, ESTHER, 5, RACHEL, 3, and TIMMY, eight months, and a neighbor, RICHARD JONES, 10 years old.
"There was just this giant ball of flames leaping hundreds of feet in the air," said 16-year-old GEORGIA GRAHAM, one of the first on the scene.
Leaking propane from an eight-inch pipeline apparently was ignited by a spark from a passing Erie-Lackawanna train.
Buckeye Pipeline Co., which owns the line, identified the explosive substance as propane.

Abilene Reporter News Texas 1965-08-22


Elgin Ohio Explosion/ Buckeye Pipeline

I was one of the persons in this explosion!

The most amazing thing to me

The most amazing thing to me about this event is the story my Grandfather Marion Rigdon told. How the power and love of God was there on this tragic night. I starts with the fact my own dad was sent to glory about 8 months before my birth in December of 64. Just a couple weeks before the explosion, Nancy Anna May trusted Christ as he personal savior! My Grandpa "Pop" told me of how happy she was to say that she was going to Heaven to be with her daddy. He could still remember her beautiful blonde hair waving in the sun as she was so happy!! He continued on to say that the night of the explosion, the Voice of the Lord woke him up and called for him to pray out for Priscilla and the children. The explosions took place while he was on his knees in prayer. He then got in his car and drove out toward our house. He was met buy the county Sheriff at the end of Owens road who said: Marion, I can't let you down there. At this point he fainted to the ground. he said he never fainted before or after. I could go on but the point is that we all have the hope of everlasting life buy placing our trust in Jesus Christ - he is your only way to heaven! Trust in him before your time is up. we are only here on earth for a short time, eternity lasts forever. This story is my hope, my faith and promise that we shall meet again in Glory one beautiful morning. Jesus never fails or gives up. ... Nancy Anna May's tombstone says: Asleep with Jesus. God bless and keep you all my friends! Keep the faith!!!

Elgin Ohio Explosion/ Buckeye Pipeline

Hello, Just now read Rachel's post here. I too, am thankful for all those who helped us during that time. It is amazing to me, that so many remember that day. In some ways it seems like yesterday and in others it seems like it was so long ago.

LP Gas Explosion

Dear Rachel,
Greetings to you from our house to yours. I first heard of this event that occurred in August 1965, from a friend of mine at Beleivers Christian Fellowship in Lima, Ohio. Looking it up on the internet confirmed exactly what he shared with me.
He, Steve Hullinger, who was working with the gas company at the time, told me of the event. He was in some capacity, in charge of things concerning the pipeline in that section, and he knew well that this explosion was the gas company's fault. As he told me, just a few days ago at a special event we were having at the church fellowship hall, there was a faulty pressure valve that blew out and flooded the area with a propane vapor cloud that was just huge. The sparks generated by the train then ignited the cloud and BOOM, just as the news reports are printed. I'm so glad that you survived it and are doing well. God will be the compensator for all yours and your family's injuries, which will be much more than the gas company or the railroad could ever give you. God bless and keep you.
Your friend, Thomas

1965 Ohio Gas Explosion

I am a survivor of the blast. I am now 48 years old. I am posting this comment to let you know that not only did Erie Lackawanna and the gas company drop the ball on this one, but even this report is not completely accurate. The 7 year old listed in this article was in fact Mary Elizabeth. We are all still living, except for Richard Jones. He and my two twin brothers were asleep in a tent in the yard, at the time of the blast.

What is most disturbing about this event is the fact that the companies in question, ( Ohio Gas Company and Erie Lackawanna) failed to properly compensate our family for this tragic event, which was clearly their fault. We grew up in poverty with barely enough to eat at times and surviving on hand-me downs and hand -outs. If it had not been for the generosity of friends, family, strangers, I do not know how we could have possibly survived thus far.

While I am not physically injured, ( other than some scarring), my oldest surviving sister has severe injuries and the meager $25,000.00, which she received at the age of 21, could never come close to covering her needs with regards to the injuries she has suffered. She has physical scarring, with loss of mobility in her left arm range of motion. Of course, in addition to the last comment I must add that without the excellent care of the doctor who provided her care at the time of her injuries, she might have lost the arm from above the elbow. I would like to thank that doctor. Mary has also suffered other injuries, as a result of trauma; which according to' todays' standards' would have provideded her a lfetime of financial support from the gas company and the railroad company.

My brother, David also has had to have an extended care for the injuries he recieved, flash burns to his lungs and more importantly the permenant loss of hearing in one ear. Our other damages of the psychological effect of losing everything, our darling older sister and our poor mother has never been the same, ask anyone who knows her.

Am I bitter? No. I am happy to be alive, but I would encourage those who may read this and have knowledge of this event to write in thoughts and comments with regards to this historic event which still carries shock waves to this day. Each time I am reminded of this event and the years to follow, I am both saddened and amazed at the responses and involvement of strangers, to ease our tragic history. I welcome your thoughts and comments, if you were involved. I was only 3 at the time and perhaps having a greater understanding of the events following this explosion will bring closure to some questions.

I would like to thank every firefighter, nurse,emergency technician, doctor, volunteer, neighbor, friend and stranger who helped out at the time.

Also, I am told that I was the last to be pulled from the rubble and the rescuer who pulled me out gets this message, I would like to especially thank-you, mere words can not express my gratitude!!!!!!!!!! Rachel (Rigdon) Baker