Windsor, ON Department Store Explosion, Oct 1960


Windsor, Ont. (CP) -- Grimy rescue workers still were digging for bodies today in the rubble of a blast shattered department store where at least 11 persons died.
Eight bodies have been recovered and three more are known to be buried in the wreckage of the two-story Metropolitan Stores Limited building.
More than 80 persons were sent to hospital Tuesday when the store, crowded with afternoon shoppers, blew apart with a thunderous roar.
Digging was held up for several hours this morning while rescue crews shored up sagging sections of walls and flooring with steel beams.
Seven bodies, all women, have been identified.
The blast, believed triggered by natural gas, punched out the rear wall of the reinforced concrete building on busy Ouellette Ave., Windsor's main business street, and collapsed the upper storeys into a basement toyland.
The explosion came without warning. As its reverberations died out, a brief silence fell across the area. The cries of the injured broke from the wreckage.
Passersby who had run for cover at the blast ran back toward the wrecked building. Some stopped to aid people fallen in the street or thrown into the gutter by the explosion, which tore out the store's front windows.

Glass Everywhere.
A cloche hat, price tag dangling, lay in the street. A football helmet perched atop a bald headed mannequin. Thick, sharp glass lay everywhere.
Police, firemen and volunteer rescuers moved in quickly.
A. R. CROZIER, chairman of the Ontario government's energy resources department which has jurisdiction over gas supplies, called a meeting of investigators for today.
Seven of the dead were taken from the scene to the morgue. A middle aged woman died in the hospital.
HENRY BIRD, Civil Defence director, said three other bodies were known to be in the wreckage.
Hours after the explosion, conflicting reports circulated placing the number of missing between five and 14.

Manager's Version.
JOSEPH HALFORD, 34, store manager, was badly burned in the blast. From his hospital bed he gave his version of what happened:
"I was helping to install a new heating unit in the boiler room. We had turned on the gas but nothing came out but air. We then decided, after 15 minutes, to try something else since no gase was coming"
"A plumber's helper got a larger wrench and opened the five-inch valve from the main. More air pushed in and with it must have come gas. We had a small summer heater burning in one corner of the room."
"I guess when the escaping gas hit that everything went. The roof fell in."
"Another man, LARRY LEVESQUE, a stock clerk, and myself found ourselves under piles of rubble, but still able to move. We saw what looked like daylight through a small hole in the back wall. We crawled toward it and helped each other through."
"There were live high-tension wires down outside and I tried to help keep people away from them. Then they took me in an ambulance."

Brick Tottered.
Search and inspection work during the night was hampered by tottering piles of masonry and brick, forcing diggers to shore up the rubble as they dug through.
JOSEPH UNGER, president of Metropolitan Stores, Limited, said the company has not been able to estimate damage. Metropolitan Stores leased the building from Principal Investments of Toronto.
The back of the building was ripped off, the debris crashing into a lane at the rear. The rear resembled a battleground but the front, where the structure is faced with granite blocks, remained intact.
Some of the victims died where they sat at the lunch counter. Others were thrown through the front of the store and across the busy street. An estimated 100 shoppers were in the building at the time.
LOU HULAY was standing within 100 feet of the building when it blew.
"People were strewn all over the street, screaming and covered with blood. People were under piles of brick, cement and steel."
It was the worst disaster in Windsor since a 1946 tornado killed 14 persons.
The toll surpassed the figure of 10 killed in the natural gas explosion that ripped the Leduc Hotel in Leduc, Alta., on Remembrance Day, 1950.

Windsor, Ont. (CP) -- List of dead in the Metropolitan Stores Ltd. explosion and fire.
MRS. MABEL DAY, 68, Windsor.
MRS. LILLIAN GOSS, 70, Pike Creek, Ont.
ELLA MARIE MYLES, 55, Windsor.
MRS. MICHAEL ZACK, Sandwich West, Ont.
One Unidentified (body recovered).
Three other persons known to be dead but bodies not yet recovered.

Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba 1960-10-26


Anne Marie Prodeus

My mom died in this explosion. She just turned 28 5 days earlier. So young. Still think about her a lot.

memories of the Metropolitan Store explosion

I thought the explosion happened in 1963! If it was 1960, I was 13yr. old at the time. My mom worked at various libraries around Windsor and this particular day, she happened to stop in at the Metrpolitan and say at the lunch counter, hoping for a quick lunch. The waitress was talking with another person seated at the counter, and was lolling about the counter. My mom just couldn't seem to get her attention. My mom started feeling a bit nauseous and a slight headache was coming on, she attributed that to being hungry. Not able to wait any longer, she left the store to go somewhere else. She got as far as the corner, when she felt a ' thud' in her chest, then the sound of breaking glass so loud, she turned around thinking there had been a car accident, only to see the entire contents of the Metropolitan blow out into the street. A few people also flew out from the store as well. She was in a state of shock and only remembers not going back to work, and doesn't remember how she got home either. My gram and us 3 kids heard all about it that evening as my mom related her experience that day.

Metropolitan store explosion

I remember that day very well,i was an employee with ABC Ambulance Service,i was the second ambulance on the scene,i'am not sure how many patients i transfered,but it was sure mass confusion.i remember transporting people to Hotel Dieu Hospital,that was when there Emergency room entrance off of Erie Street.I also remember i made a trip to Grace Hospital also,A police officer drove the Ambulance to Grace Hospital,i was unable to locate my partner.Wally Ballanytyne from Windsor Ambulance was the 1st unit on the scene,and spent hours on the scene.I was 20 years old at the the time.