Valparaiso, IN Natural Gas Explosion, Mar 1955
AREA GAS LINE BLAST KILLS FOUR.
THREE PEOPLE INJURED IN NORTH COUNTY.
TRAGEDY OCCURS IN LIBERTY TOWNSHIP AT TOLL ROAD SITE.
Four men were killed and three were injured, one critically, by a terrific explosion which occurred in the Michigan and Wisconsin natural gas pipe line on Indiana 49, eight miles north of Valparaiso. The blast occurred at about 9:45 o'clock this morning.
Those reported killed were:
CLOVIS KING, 45, St. John.
WILMER MILLER, 39, Crown Point.
LESTER LIND, 45, Detroit.
and LESTER KUHN, 45, Crown Point.
HUNTER SMITH, 63, Crown Point, was reported in critical condition from burns by officials of Porter Memorial Hospital. Others injured, but not believed in serious condition, were:
KENNETH McKAY, 47, Crown Point.
and CARL MANLEY, 25, Crown Point.
Both were being treated for shock, hospital authorities stated.
According to reports, the workmen were building a by-pass of the gas line to go under the site of the new toll road. Two bulldozers were working, one on each side of the highway, back filling. Apparently one of the bulldozers struck the huge pipe, one of the workers stated.
Placing Cap On Pipe.
KENNETH McKAY, Crown Point, who was working near the site of the blast, stated that he was "thrown about 300 feet" by the force of the blast. He said that three of the men who were killed were placing a cap around a pipe connection when the explosion occurred.
State police put a traffic blockade around the area immediately following the blast. As a precautionary measure, all people living in the area were warned that there was a possibility of future explosions.
Pupils from the Liberty Center School, which is located about one-half mile from the scene, were sent home.
Jack Morthland and Irvin Pope, Liberty Township farmers, who were working in a field near the area, stated that huge balls of flames emerged from both sides of Highway 49 during the blast and that it blew one of the bulldozers into the air.
The fire was still burning furiously this afternoon and ignited brush and dead grass in a radius of a half-mile from the scene. However, there are no homes in the immediate vicinity which might be threatened by the flames, it was noted.
Northern Indiana Public Service company officials stated that they had a line running above the pipeline. Morris Groverman, Jr., district manager, stated that he has a crew of men standing by but at the present time he did not anticipate any danger to their utility line or that there would be any curtailment of service to customers in the area.
The terrific explosion was heard as far south as Valparaiso and as far north as Porter. The Vidette-Messenger received numerous calls from residents in this area inquiring about what happened.
A report from Washington Township school said the building there shook. Several callers said they had heard noises and saw flames in the sky. One woman reported she believed at first that a jet plane might have crashed, but when the rumbling noise continued didn't know what might be transpiring.
Vidette-Messenger Valparaiso Indiana 1955-03-09