Los Angeles, CA Building Explosion, Oct 1930
Gas, Katzenberger said, explodes in all directions while detonated commercial explosives always expend their force in concentrated and usually single directions.
The police said at least two victims of the blast had told them of seeing the young Mexican employee light the cigarette, which was followed immediately by the explosion.
Phil Handman, garment worker on the fifth floor, described witnessing the ignition of the blast by the Mexican youth.
"Just as he struck a match," Handman said, "to light his cigarette there was a big puff and roar. I was stunned but I saw the boy and his boss, HYMAN SCHULMAN, sail through the hallway."
An elevator boy corroborated Handman's account.
He told investigators he had just let SCHULMAN and the Mexican out of the lift and was waiting for Handman to enter when the blast shook the building. The elevator boy also said he noticed the Mexican light his cigarette.
Matthews disclosed that Schulman, one of the manufacturers, was in the habit each morning of throwing off the burglar alarm switch as he arrived in the fifth floor hallway.
Schulman told police that, as the Mexican youth lit his cigarette, simultaneously he threw the alarm switch. He also told police that as he did so wires to electric sewing machines in his shop seemed to throw a shower of sparks.
Schulman and his employee, Irving Chavin, Matthews said, declared the explosion seemed to start from the floor about three feet, giving weight to the theory of a liquid gas plot.
"The last link in the chain of plot evidence, Matthews said, "was found when we discovered burned stains on the linoleum near the elevator. Those stains, we believe were made by the liquid gas when it was poured from pressure containers. With the gas under pressure it was possible to carry a large quantity into the building."
After the fire was entirely checked, a survey showed damage from the blaze itself had been slight. Bolts of cloth on hand for the manufacture of suits and dresses, were burned, as was most of the woodwork on the fifth floor.
The force of the blast twisted elevator shafts on the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh floors. Steel window frames were either blown into the street or bulged outward precariously.
More than four score small garment making companies occupied the building.
The Graybar Electric Co., situated near the garment building, suffered a large loss to its building and equipment.
All the windows were blown in, large display cases and their contents wrecked, doors were ripped from their hinges and desks overturned.
Only one man, a janitor, was in the building and he escaped unhurt.
The Otis Elevator Co. building also suffered considerable damage, chiefly to smashed windows and doors.
A heavy overhanging roof on the Stewart-Davis building, across the street from the wrecked structure, fell in a tangled mass on the sidewalk. Like a huge rubbish heap from the interior of this building. Cases of shoes, bolts of cloth, office fixtures and building debris were hurled in confused heaps against the rear walls.
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