Livermore, CA (near) Water Tunnel Explosion, June 1930
SEVEN KILLED IN TUNNEL BLAST NEAR LIVERMORE; GAS PERIL FOILS RESCUE.
ONE INJURED, SCORES MENACED, REGION ROCKED BY TERRIFIC EXPLOSION IN HETCHY BORE.
FEAR SECOND DETONATION.
Seven men were killed and one injured last night by a terrific explosion in the Calaveras tunnel of the Hetch Hetchy projects in the Alameda county hills nine miles southeast of Livermore.
G. S. PAIZES, 36, single, 1254 Leavenworth street, San Francisco.
FRED FLADER, 28, single, of Colorado.
P. J. BECK, 41, single, 1232 Ellis street, San Francisco.
A. RODD, 39, single, 939 Mission street, San Francisco.
CARL C. COOK, single, 1619 Campbell street, Oakland.
H. J. HAMPTON, 32, married, 848 South New Hampshire street, Los Angeles.
C. DeKLOET, 43, single, 315 Fifth street, San Francisco.
The injured man, boss of the crew of which the others were members, is RICHARD LaMONT. He is in a Livermore hospital suffering from shock, but will recover.
All of the bodies, burned and mangled beyond recognition, were removed late today after the rescue had once been halted through fear of another an more terrible blast.
The first four bodies were taken out by rescue crews equipped with gas masks. But a new accumulation of lethal and highly explosive gas created a hazard of another and greater explosion and officials ordered the work temporarily halted.
Repairs were made on a ten-inch air pipe leading into the tunnel, 1800 feet of which had been wrecked, and a smaller auxillary pipe line was laid. Fresh are was then pumped into the bore until the rescue could proceed with a greater degree of safety.
The rescue crews also were hampered by a stream of water pouring into the tunnel from a subterranean spring tapped by the explosion and by heavy boulders and debris strewn for the entire length of the bore.
An official investigation into the disaster was launched immediately by C. H. Fry, superintendent of safety for the state industrial accident commission and F. L. Lowell, of the state bureau of mines.
The blast was caused by accumulated gas at the end of the tunnel which pierces the hills for a distance of 5000 feet. So terrific was its force that the hills were shaken until men of the surface believed an earthquake had occurred. Piles of gravel at the mouth of the tunnel, nearly a mile from the scene of the explosion, were leveled. FINDER, motorman of an electric tram, was blown 50 feet from his car and killed. A telephone and heavy transformer, weighing 100 pounds, were torn from their fastenings and carried 500 feet along the tube.
La MONT escaped the full force of the blast because he was not with the work crew. He was on his way from the surface to the end of the tunnel to investigate a water seepage, and was found in a semi-conscious condition crawling along the floor of the tunnel 1500 feet from the scene of the explosion. He has not been able to tell what happened.
A dynamite explosion, intentionally set off yesterday, was given as the indirect cause of the tragedy. The earlier blast is believed to have opened up a natural gas pocket and permitted the tunnel to fill with the gas. The dynamite explosion also started the water leak.
Officials said the gas explosion probably was caused by the "sparking" of the motor on the electric tram FINDER was operating or by a spark when a pick wielded by one of the workmen struck a rock.
The first rescue crew went into the tunnel without gas masks and all its members were partially overcome. They were FLOYD FLICKS, VERN BLAND, H.R. CABLE, JOHN B. BURNS, HENRY FRANEY, MARTIN GIDDINGS, VIC JOHNSON and SAM R. HENSLEY.
The latter joined the crew for the purpose of trying to rescue his "buddy," COOK, not knowing the latter was dead.
HENSLEY and COOK had served together in the army in the Philippines, Hawaii and Franco for 15 years. None of the crew suffered any serious effects from the gas.
After the gas had driven back the first crew, messengers were sent to the Livermore headquarters of the Hetch Hetchy project and obtained gas masks.
Dr. M. E. EASTMAN of Pleasanton and T. W ESTY, Hetch Hetchy water engineer, were directing the rescue operations.
Other workmen who joined the rescue crews included G. A. CATTERLIN, JOHN B. BURNS, JACK EKLUNG, BARNEY JORDAN, LOUIS BRANDT, BOB ZILKEY, T.E. WOODS, GRADY PHILLIPS, A. J. WEHNER, MARTIN LYORIS, C. L. RUSSELL, L. PELLEGRINI, J. O'DONNELL, GEORGE HOOPER, A. COBLE and A. H. COLTON.
Flashlights were the only means of lighting the tunnel that could be used by the rescue crews. Efforts also were made to drive a motor truck into the bore, but the water, debris and gas would permit taking the vehicle only a short distance into the tunnel.
Timbering of the tunnel was not seriously damaged, ESTY reported, and there is no danger of a cave-in.
The tunnel is being drilled as a part of the San Francisco municipal water and power project. It is to be two miles in length and will tap the Calaveras reservoir which the city acquired through its purchase of the Spring Valley Water company properties several months ago.
Oakland Tribune California 1930-06-09