Andover, OH Restaurant Explosion Kills 21, Aug 1955
BLAST IN NORTHEAST OHIO TOWN LEAVES 21 DEAD, SCORE HURT.
Andover, Ohio (AP) -- The gruesome job of identifying charred bodies began today in a temporary morgue three blocks from the village square, where smoke still rose from an explosion and fire.
Many of the dead and injured had sought shelter from a storm in a row of buildings which were leveled by the disaster.
THere were 21 bodies accounted for, most of them in a make-shift morgue inside a garage, and at least two persons were reported missing. More than a score were injured.
The center of the disaster was the Gateway Restaurant in this village in the resort area in North-eastern Ohio near the Pennsylvania border. The restaurant and a dairy store were in a 2-story frame building which disintegrated with a force that shook the whole town. It has a population of about 1,200.
The task of learning the victims' names was complicated by the fact this village is on Ohio 6, used by tourists headed for Lake Erie as well as Lake Pymatuning. Some of them may have been eating in the restaurant at the time of the explosion.
A Pittsburgh family of four was among those definitely listed. They were MR. and MRS. GEORGE SCHROEDER, their 2-year-old son, GEORGE, JR., and MRS. SCHROEDER'S father, THOMAS KENNELL, 45. The latter's wife was in a hospital.
Sixteen-year-old twins who had been working as waitresses also were identified. They were ARLENE and DARLENE CUTTLIP of Andover.
Through the sodden ashes and debris the squads of silent firemen worked in a drizzle until 5 a.m. today. Then they stopped for rest and food.
At 2 a.m. they had pulled the 17th body from under the sagging and blackened timbers which had fallen into the cellar. After that, they had been able to recover only portions of bodies.
Debris showered Main Street in front of the restaurant, ripping up sections of the street and wrecking several automobiles. Then the flames whipped on to other buildings.
A Cleveland policeman, ELMER BUMBLIS, was driving past the restaurant at the time of the explosion and gave this description of the disaster:
"The walls blew out and the roof fell in. There were arms and legs sticking out of the wreckage all over the building."
No one was certain what caused the explosion. Firemen, however, speculated that accumulated gas was set off either by a bolt of lightning or a spark from electrical equipment in the basement, flooded by the heavy rains.
Today, tired-eyes and grimy firemen and volunteer rescuers still were picking through the smoking wreckage in search of more bodies. They worked through the night with searchlights and emergency generators, as the storm had knocked out power and telephone lines.
In a makeshift morgue, set up three blocks from the scene, Ashtabula County Deputy Coroner H. K. KYNNE was going through the grisly task of identifying the bodies of the dead. Many were burned beyond recognition, and DR. LYNNE said it may take days to identify all of them.
The fire itself was brought under control in four hours as firemen from 20 nearby Ohio and Pennsylvania towns rushed equipment to the stricken village.
Traffic was snarled through much of the night by the ffects of the explosion and hordes or curious motorists who drove to see the fire. Law enforcement officials threw a cordon around the community and the State Highway Patrol said martial law had been declared there at the request of the Andover mayor. Sixty troops were sent to the village to enforce it.
FRANK LACKY, a Massillon truck driver, was eating in the restaurant when it exploded.
"Suddenly the restaurant was gone," he recalled later at Ashtabula Hospital where he was taken for treatment of his injuries. "It just blew up. The next thing I knew I was lying in the grass."
In a building adjoining the restaurant, FAY LETWILER was knocked to the floor by the explosion as he sat in his apartment. Overcome by smoke, he was carried down a ladder by firemen and later said that: "I heard a tremendous explosion and saw a big ball of fire. Smoke poured in the window and then I blacked out."
An Andover furniture salesman, CHARLES DOTTA, 30, was walking across the street from the restaurant for his wife, who had just finished eating there.
His wife, DOLORES, 28, was standing in the doorway, waiting for a break in the rain.
Then, DOTTA said: "The roof buckled and the walls blew out. I saw her. She was sitting there. Just sitting there, right in the middle of Main Street."
DOTTA drove his wife to a doctor's office where it was found she suffered only minor injuries.
The building in which the restaurant was located also houses an Isaly store, part of a national dairy store chain. The other buildings houses Ohio Edison Co. offices, HALL Insurance Co., FREDDY'S Shoe Shop, GRABERT Market and TAYLOR'S Barber Shop.
Van Wert Times Bulletin Ohio 1955-08-11
Listing of Dead in Andover Explosion.
FRANK FELLOWS, 62, Cleveland.
BARBARA FELLOWS, 45, his wife.
RICHARD FELLOWS, 8, their adopted son.
DONALD KOCES, 10, a neighbor of the FELLOWS family.
MRS. EVELYN MARIE LABUS, North Ridgeville, Ohio.
FORREST BIESLERVELD, 16, Andover.
TOM BROWN, 32, Andover.
ARLENE and DARLENE CUTLIP, 16 year old twins, waitresses, Williamsfield, Ohio.
THOMAS KENNELL, 45, Pittsburgh.
GEORGE A. SCHROEDER, 24, Pittsburgh.
SHIRLEY SCHROEDER, 23, his wife, Pittsburgh.
GEORGE SCHROEDER, JR., 2, their son.
CECIL POINDEXTER, 33, Massillon, Ohio.
RISSELL A. KIRKHAN, 36, Ingram, Pa.
MARGARET KIRKHAN, his wife, Ingram, Pa.
JOHN R. KIRKHAN, 13, their son, Ingram, Pa.
MARGIE KIRKHAN, 8, their daughter, Ingram, Pa.
HELEN JONES, 34, Andover.
BARBARA OFFUT, 18, waitress, New Lyme, Ohio.