Greenville, SC Propane Gas Explosion, Nov 1946


Greenville, S. C. (UP) -- Armed soldiers today patrolled littered streets where six persons were killed and over 150 injured here last night when exploding propane gas demolished a block-long laundry and wrecked or damaged every building in the vicinity.
The troops from the Greenville Army Air Base were ordered to the scene to prevent looting from stores and houses that were shattered by the terrific blast.
The explosion occurred around 6 p.m. Rescue parties who stumbled through the shambles of wreckage to bring out the injured said it was a miracle that the casualty figures were not much higher.
While firemen and police were still investigating the disaster, reports were received of a second explosion in a sandwich shop about 15 miles out of town on the highway to Augusta. Three persons were hurt, one critically. Cause of this accident was unknown.
After a survey, the Red Cross reported 15 houses destroyed, and 45 damaged. Three buildings in the area became hollow shells that will be torn down as a safety measure. Eight others were damaged. Hundreds of window panes were splintered for blocks around.
The laundry itself was leveled as if it had taken a direct hit from a 2000-pound demolition bomb.
Across the street the Third Presbyterian Church was badly damaged. Pipes from the organ were lifted from their racks and smashed into twisted metal.
An unidentified man and his wife were at dinner with his aged mother next door to the big Ideal Laundry when the first blast came last night.
The concussion buckled the walls of the house and the roof collapsed, burying the older woman. Miraculously, however, all three escaped serious injury.
J. CARL TRAMMELL, superintendent of the laundry, paid with his life by staying inside the plant directing its evacuation after leaking gas was discovered.
The leakage was found by E. R. HAYNIE, plant manager. After spreading the warning, he rushed to a fire station a block away for help. While he was explaining things to firemen, they were almost knocked down by the explosion.
The body of W. L. HARBIN, white fireman at the laundry, was discovered in the ruins today.
The other dead were identified as MARY BROWN, JERLINE SIMPSON and MAMIE EARLE. These three were Negro laundry workers.
Fire Chief Frank Donnald explained that the propane gas, used as cleaning fluid, was kept in a big tank in the laundry. The gas escaped from a leak in vaporized form and, being heavier than air, settled into the laundry basement where it was ignited by the furnace.

Chester Times Pennsylvania 1946-11-20


Ideal Laundry explosion 1946

The explosion was caused by improper installation of propane gas causing leaks and fumes to fill the building.