Calhoun, LA Pipeline Explosion, Aug 1976


Calhoun, La. (AP) -- Sheriff's officers said a natural gas explosion which killed five persons apparently was triggered as a road grader hit an underground pipeline.
The explosion Monday near the North Louisiana town sent a blowtorch of flame 200 feet into the sky, dug a 30-foot crater and scorched trees and fields up to several hundred yards away.
Sheriff's officers said the grader was scraping a ditch beside a rural road when it apparently hit the 20-inch underground pipeline. The gas was under a pressure of 770 pounds per square inch.
The thunderous explosion jarred a truck stop six miles away, a waitress said. A witness said the explosion threw a trailer home into a tree, where is burned.
Another witness said the scene afterward "looked like a battlefield -- the piney woods in the area were reduced to burnt stubs sticking out of the ground."
Three trailers and two houses were destroyed. All of the dead were at two of the trailers, and authorities said other residents apparently were away when the explosion occurred.
The dead were identified as:
his wife CLARA, 67.
MRS. JOHN REDDING, 34, and her children BILLY JOE, 4; SUZY ANN, 6; and DOUGLAS, 11.
BOB ELDRIDGE, 48, of Ruston, driver of the grader
which reportedly hit the pipeline, was in guarded condition at a Ruston hospital with burns over 45 per cent of his body.
MRS. REDDING and her children burned to death in their home. MRS. WHITNEY jumped or was knocked into a swimming pool outside her home and her husband's body was found nearby, the coroner said.
Deputy Sheriff Bennie Kennedy said the fire generated so much heat that rescue crews could not enter the area. The fire burned for almost an hour before the gas supply was cut off.
The pipeline, owned by United Gas Pipe Line Co., was a feeder line from Carthage, Tex., to Sterlington, La., in Ouachita Parish.
Calhoun is a small unincorporated community near the Ouachita-Jackson Parish line. The explosion occurred just inside the Jackson Parish line.

Avalanche Journal Lubbock Texas 1976-08-10