Oklahoma City, OK Hangar Explosion, Jan 1946
10 BURN TO DEATH IN HANGAR BLAZE AT OKLAHOMA CITY.
THIRTY-EIGHT OTHER PERSONS INJURED, NONE CRITICALLY -- DAMAGE ESTIMATED AT $750,000.
FLAMES SPRING UP AFTER TERRIFIC BLAST.
INTENSE HEAT PREVENTS SEARCH OF RUINS FOR HOURS AFTER FIRE IS BROUGHT UNDER CONTROL.
Oklahoma City, Jan. 28. -- (AP) -- Ten persons were burned to death and 38 others were injured today when gasoline-fed flames roared suddenly through the main hangar at Tinker Field.
Six of the dead have been identified. All were from Oklahoma City. They were:
MILTON RANDOLPH WEBER, 30.
CLAUDE LEVERT FERRIER, 52.
HACKETT VAN CLEAVE, 28.
JAMES MITCHELL MANGUM, 44.
MARVIN A. DAUM, 40.
MURRAY W. JACKSON, 33.
CHARLES RAY GIVENS.
All known dead were civilians.
Cause of the fire was not offically determined. Eyewitnesses said a "tornado-like" blast swept the hangar just before the flames started.
Colonel RALPH G. BROWNFIELD, deputy commander of the huge army air force supply depot, estimated total damage at $750,000. He said the figure included both the building and equipment loss.
The intense heat, which crumpled iron girders like wire, kept firemen from searching the ruins for several hours after the blaze was controlled.
Not until the ten bodies were found in the twisted wreckage was it believed definitely that any of the 800 workers in the building had perished. Field officials said at first that nine persons had died, but a check of funeral homes finally established the number at eight.
Colonel BROWNFIELD said he did not know whether additional bodies would be found. Workers continued to clear away debris.
Identification of the bodies recovered was difficult. A painstaking check of dental records and a few charred personal effects was being made.
All of the 38 injured were expected to recover. None were critically hurt.
Many suffered sprains and bruises when they leaped from the second floor workshop of the hangar. It was a 15-foot drop.
Flames quickly spread through the huge structure. The steel ends escaped but the center was a mass of twisted girders.
MISS NAOMI L. McCOLLUM, an electrical accessories worker, gave the following account:
"I was working on a magnetic breaker point at my bench which was approximately three feet from the point where the explosion occurred."
"As I recall, a wind-like rumbling sound, followed by a flash of fire, came and I felt the warmth on my back."
"As I started running, a flash passed me going in every direction. Approximately 150 others and myself started for the outlets nearest to us."
"I ran westward toward the big hangar door and as I ran along flames leaped into the wiring and traveled at lightning speed along the electrical wires of the hangar."
"As I neared the door, I glanced back and all I could see was flames everywhere with people running."
A dozen B-29s were damaged to some extent, but none exploded. Workers dashed into the flames with small, gasoline powered vehicles and moved the giant planes outdoors.
Among the Superforts which have been serviced in this hangar was the one which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Fire fighters from Oklahoma City, Midwest City and Tinker Field had the fire under control in less than an hour.
LYDIA CASEY, Oklahoma City, who worked across the table from MISS McCOLLEM, told virtually the same story but added:
"I took a little more time to get out than NAOMI. But I left fast when the windows in the second story blew in.
"There was a terrific explosion. I could look up through the windows between the second floor and the inside of the hangar and see people running frantically back and forth trying to get out."
"The explosion hit like a tornado. The suction and heat were terrific."
Joplin Globe Missouri 1946-01-29