Sullivan, IN Gas Explosion, Feb 1978

Sullivan IN  Downtown Postcard view.jpg


Sullivan, Ind. (AP) -- Three persons were killed and one other feared buried in the rubble Friday after an explosion and fire that shook the courthouse square of this quiet southwestern Indiana community.
Twelve persons were injured, one critically, in the blast. Police speculated that it might have been caused when a city worker struck a natural gas line with a small earth-mover he was using to clear snow in an alley.
The victims were identified as KATHERINE BLACKBURN of Fairbanks, Ind., who had opened a dress shop downtown just last summer; and GERALD JENNINGS, 18, Shelburn, and WILBUR ROMINE of Sullivan, both employees of Ohio Valley Gas Co. MRS. BLACKBURN was the wife of an Indiana State Police trooper.
The two utility employees had been sent to the area
to investigate reports of leaking gas.
Missing was THERESA BEAN, the owner of a candle shop where the gas company employees were working.
There were apartments above the dress and candle shops, but residents said they were believed to have been vacant.
All but two of the injured were treated for minor injuries, mainly facial lacerations from flying glass, and then released.
In critical condition was CHARLES ROBBINS, 57, Sullivan, the city worker who had been clearing snow and was buried up to his neck in the flaming rubble. HESTINE SPOONMORE, 63, Sullivan, a customer in a bakery that also was destroyed, was listed in satisfactory condition.
Three buildings were destroyed by the mid afternoon explosion -- two of them reduced to a black hole of rubble -- and two others housing the Sullivan Daily Times newspaper were damaged.
The newspaper's carrier boys had picked up the afternoon editions and left on their routes just minutes before the explosion.
"It was pathetic. If only five were dead, it would still be a miracle because all the kids were out from school and out on the street," said MARTHA COX, 46, Sullivan, who was shopping for a Valentine's Day card in a department store across the street when the explosion happened. "I just heard this awful explosion. It felt like something hit the side of the building."
Firemen from Sullivan, a community of about 4,600 people near the Illinois state line, were joined by firefighters from neighboring communities of Farmersburg, Linton and Dugger.

Kokomo Tribune Indiana 1978-02-11