Andover, OH Restaurant Explosion Kills 21, Aug 1955

BLAST IN NORTHEAST OHIO TOWN LEAVES 21 DEAD, SCORE HURT.

Andover, Ohio (AP) -- The gruesome job of identifying charred bodies began today in a temporary morgue three blocks from the village square, where smoke still rose from an explosion and fire.
Many of the dead and injured had sought shelter from a storm in a row of buildings which were leveled by the disaster.
THere were 21 bodies accounted for, most of them in a make-shift morgue inside a garage, and at least two persons were reported missing. More than a score were injured.
The center of the disaster was the Gateway Restaurant in this village in the resort area in North-eastern Ohio near the Pennsylvania border. The restaurant and a dairy store were in a 2-story frame building which disintegrated with a force that shook the whole town. It has a population of about 1,200.
The task of learning the victims' names was complicated by the fact this village is on Ohio 6, used by tourists headed for Lake Erie as well as Lake Pymatuning. Some of them may have been eating in the restaurant at the time of the explosion.
A Pittsburgh family of four was among those definitely listed. They were MR. and MRS. GEORGE SCHROEDER, their 2-year-old son, GEORGE, JR., and MRS. SCHROEDER'S father, THOMAS KENNELL, 45. The latter's wife was in a hospital.
Sixteen-year-old twins who had been working as waitresses also were identified. They were ARLENE and DARLENE CUTTLIP of Andover.
Through the sodden ashes and debris the squads of silent firemen worked in a drizzle until 5 a.m. today. Then they stopped for rest and food.
At 2 a.m. they had pulled the 17th body from under the sagging and blackened timbers which had fallen into the cellar. After that, they had been able to recover only portions of bodies.
Debris showered Main Street in front of the restaurant, ripping up sections of the street and wrecking several automobiles. Then the flames whipped on to other buildings.
A Cleveland policeman, ELMER BUMBLIS, was driving past the restaurant at the time of the explosion and gave this description of the disaster:
"The walls blew out and the roof fell in. There were arms and legs sticking out of the wreckage all over the building."
No one was certain what caused the explosion. Firemen, however, speculated that accumulated gas was set off either by a bolt of lightning or a spark from electrical equipment in the basement, flooded by the heavy rains.
Today, tired-eyes and grimy firemen and volunteer rescuers still were picking through the smoking wreckage in search of more bodies. They worked through the night with searchlights and emergency generators, as the storm had knocked out power and telephone lines.
In a makeshift morgue, set up three blocks from the scene, Ashtabula County Deputy Coroner H. K. KYNNE was going through the grisly task of identifying the bodies of the dead. Many were burned beyond recognition, and DR. LYNNE said it may take days to identify all of them.
The fire itself was brought under control in four hours as firemen from 20 nearby Ohio and Pennsylvania towns rushed equipment to the stricken village.
Traffic was snarled through much of the night by the ffects of the explosion and hordes or curious motorists who drove to see the fire. Law enforcement officials threw a cordon around the community and the State Highway Patrol said martial law had been declared there at the request of the Andover mayor. Sixty troops were sent to the village to enforce it.
FRANK LACKY, a Massillon truck driver, was eating in the restaurant when it exploded.
"Suddenly the restaurant was gone," he recalled later at Ashtabula Hospital where he was taken for treatment of his injuries. "It just blew up. The next thing I knew I was lying in the grass."
In a building adjoining the restaurant, FAY LETWILER was knocked to the floor by the explosion as he sat in his apartment. Overcome by smoke, he was carried down a ladder by firemen and later said that: "I heard a tremendous explosion and saw a big ball of fire. Smoke poured in the window and then I blacked out."
An Andover furniture salesman, CHARLES DOTTA, 30, was walking across the street from the restaurant for his wife, who had just finished eating there.
His wife, DOLORES, 28, was standing in the doorway, waiting for a break in the rain.
Then, DOTTA said: "The roof buckled and the walls blew out. I saw her. She was sitting there. Just sitting there, right in the middle of Main Street."
DOTTA drove his wife to a doctor's office where it was found she suffered only minor injuries.
The building in which the restaurant was located also houses an Isaly store, part of a national dairy store chain. The other buildings houses Ohio Edison Co. offices, HALL Insurance Co., FREDDY'S Shoe Shop, GRABERT Market and TAYLOR'S Barber Shop.

Van Wert Times Bulletin Ohio 1955-08-11

Listing of Dead in Andover Explosion.
FRANK FELLOWS, 62, Cleveland.
BARBARA FELLOWS, 45, his wife.
RICHARD FELLOWS, 8, their adopted son.
DONALD KOCES, 10, a neighbor of the FELLOWS family.
MRS. EVELYN MARIE LABUS, North Ridgeville, Ohio.
FORREST BIESLERVELD, 16, Andover.
TOM BROWN, 32, Andover.
ARLENE and DARLENE CUTLIP, 16 year old twins, waitresses, Williamsfield, Ohio.
THOMAS KENNELL, 45, Pittsburgh.
GEORGE A. SCHROEDER, 24, Pittsburgh.
SHIRLEY SCHROEDER, 23, his wife, Pittsburgh.
GEORGE SCHROEDER, JR., 2, their son.
CECIL POINDEXTER, 33, Massillon, Ohio.
RISSELL A. KIRKHAN, 36, Ingram, Pa.
MARGARET KIRKHAN, his wife, Ingram, Pa.
JOHN R. KIRKHAN, 13, their son, Ingram, Pa.
MARGIE KIRKHAN, 8, their daughter, Ingram, Pa.
HELEN JONES, 34, Andover.
BARBARA OFFUT, 18, waitress, New Lyme, Ohio.

Comments

Andover Explosion

My Mother remembers the aftermath of this disaster vividly. She was raised in this area and had worked as a dishwasher and waitress in this restaurant a few years before. At the time of the disaster she had been married for just a couple months and was living in Columbus. She came home for the weekend and having heard of the explosion went to Andover to see what had happened. She said there were shreds of people's clothing hanging in the trees. It was haunting to her. Her aunt and cousin had been working at the restaurant that day on an earlier shift. They left not long before it happened. Such a tragedy.

Andover Memorial Plaque

I was in the military when I heard of my family being killed in the Andover Ohio explosion in 1955. My father, Thomas Peter Kanell, 45, my sister, Shirley Schroeder, her husband George A. and her son (my nephew) George (2 years old) died. My Mom, Jessie Kanell, survived with burns on 80% of her body when she fell through the floor into the basement during the explosion. She stated that a gentleman complained about smelling gas and left with his wife minutes prior to the explosion. I am now nearing 80 years old and wish to visit the Memorial plaque erected, but do not know the location. Can anyone give me information on the location?

Restaurant Explosion 8-11-1955 in Andover, Ohio

We were camping at Lake Pymatuning State Park and our Dad decided to take us to Andover, Ohio for some Ice Cream...I was only 9 years old...About 15 minutes after we
left the restaurant as we were still somewhere on the Square we heard this terrible explosion...We were told some
people died from a gas explosion of the restaurant we just left...Awful...
There use to be a Drive-In near there that our Dad took
us to on the week-end and stayed there until the
3:00 A.M. Free donuts were brought out...My Dad was brought up during the Depression of the 1930's and was
so appreciated of those free donuts
God Bless those families of that terrible accident...

Andover Explosion in 1955

I lived in Ashtabula, & was in the Fifth Grade when I first heard of the terrible explosion & loss of life in Andover, in 1955. Perhaps that tragedy has remained so clearly in my mind, all of these years, because my father took part, rendering aid to those who were hurt & doing all that he could to help.He was a member of the Civil Defense in the 1950's & was always ready when he was called to lend a hand. I can still remember when he came back home. The look on his face, said it all.

I remember being sent to my room, so he could talk to my mother about that horrific day. As I walked out of the kitchen, he told me that there were just some things he didn't want me to hear. It was best that way & I never did learn of all that my dad & the other members of the Civil Defense, witnessed that day.

After all of these years, I still think of that fateful day in Andover, from time to time. It's not something a person forgets.

Andover explosion 1955

I posted a comment about the Andover explosion on August 11, 1955 that took the life of a former St. Procop Grade School classmate, Donald Koces. Donald's former St. Procop Grade School classmates just celebrated our 51st Reunion as we graduated from the 8th Grade in 1959. Several persons remembered Donald Koces and he was missed at the Reunion on December 11, 2010. Donald Koces would have been age 65 this year.

Andover explosion 1955

On Saturday, December 11, 2010 the St. Procop 8th Grade Class of 1959 celebrated our 51st Reunion and Holiday Luncheon. We are the former classmates of Donald Koces who was only age 10 when he was killed in the Andover, OH explosion in the year 1955. We all remember Donald Koces who was a fun loving boy who went on a weekend vacation with his neighbors and never returned.

My older brother Thomas J. Ziska was invited to go along with the Fellows family but because he had a Cleveland Press paper route, he had to remain behind to perform his weekly money collections to pay for his papers. Fortunately for him and all of us, he did not go on the vacation weekend to Andover, OH. Today, my brother Tom is a successful architect who owns his own business.

Andover explosion 1955

I remember this story vividly, I drove through Andover 1/2 hour before this explosion happened, and I have talked about this event many times in my life, I recall that the reason for the explosion was, Gasoline getting into the sewer line and the pilot light on the hot water tank in Isalys set off the explosion, They had extensive research to find out what caused it, and they pinned it down to one of the Gasoline stations with a leak in the storage tank, I don't recall which station it was,
I also remember what a bad rain storm we had that evening,
Don Gee