Houston, TX Ammonia Truck Explosion, May 1976

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Houston (UPI) -- A tanker truck loaded with ammonia crashed through a guardrail at the state's busiest highway interchange Tuesday and plunged into another lane of traffic 20 feet below, exploding on impact. Four persons died and at least 95 persons were overcome by the toxic fumes.
The truck was reduced to a twisted heap of metal. Great clouds of ammonia fumes billowed over the area, turning spring foliage to a golden brown and chasing stunned motorists from their cars.
Hospital emergency rooms were jammed with persons suffering from burning eyes and lungs. A spokesman for the Greater Hospital Council said at least 95 persons were treated at 14 hospitals. Most were released but several were admitted to intensive care units.
"I saw a big whole tank fly up as high as the (40-story) Humble Building,"said cab driver Robert Galindo, 32, about 150 yards from the explosion. "The smell was horrible. I couldn't breathe. But I saw people on the inside of that cloud of smoke."
Another witness said several motorists were trapped in their cars.
"I stopped and my carwas rocking from the shock waves," the witness said. "I started crossing over to the grassy area. People stopped to stare at the wreckage like they were in a trance. I got off the road and my heart was still in my throat. It was terrible."
The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a team of investigators from Washington to Houston to investigate the accident. The owner ofthe truck, Transport Co. of Texas, said the tank normally carried 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of ammonia under great pressure.
The truck crashed through a guardrail on Loop 610 and fell onto U.S. 59. A Texas Highway Department spokesman said 345,000 cars daily use the interchange, the
"heaviest traveled in the state."
"Cars and people were scattered everywhere," said Shelby Hodge, a reporter for the Houston Post, whose offices are adjacent to the interchange. All that was left of the truck was four tires and a heap of metal.
Miss Hodge was sitting at her desk when the blast shook the four-story building and engulfed the area in smoke.

Playground Daily News Fort Walton Beach Florida 1976-05-12

The Casualties Were Identified As:
WILLIAM GREGORY SCHMIDT, 28, of Corpus Christi, driver of the tank truck.
GORDON D. McADAMS, 40, of Conroe, Tex.
GEORGE HENRY PEARSON, 33, of Sugar Land, Tex.