Glenwood Springs, CO Building Explosion, Dec 1985


Glenwood Springs, Colo. (AP) -- Fire-fighters searched the smoldering rubble of a leveled two-story gas company today for a missing person after a propane tank explosion and fire that killed 11 people and injured 13.
Twenty-seven employees of the Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Co. in this west-central Colorado town were believed to be in the building when the explosion occurred Monday morning. Two people escaped injury.
A welding torch that was lighted near an almost empty 1,000-gallon propane tank apparently triggered the blast in a garage where repairs were done, said Les Sitter, a company vice president at its Denver headquarters.
Fire still burned under the wreckage at nightfall.
"We'll continue to look in the rubble in case there were people there who were not Rocky Mountain employees," city manager Mike Copp said late Monday. Since the office did not take payments. Copp said, visitors were unlikely.
Company president Don Parsons refused to speculate on the cause of the blast and said he would wait for an investigation. He confirmed that a propane tank on a flatbed trailer apparently was undergoing repairs. "I doubt if the tank was full, but I expect it had some propane in it," he said.
Parsons described propane as more hazardous than natural gas, and said the practice of welding near gas "would be abnormal."
No natural gas was stored at the building in an industrial park at the western edge of this resort town of 5,000, police said. The combination billing office-maintenance garage was reduced to rubble by the 9:16 a.m. explosion.
"Within 10 seconds, the building was basically demolished," said Arthur Purdy, owner of a nearby restaurant who saw the building explode.
"There's going to be no bodies in there except dead ones," said Kith Gilstrap, a heavy-equipment
operator driving past when the plant blew up. "The walls looked just like an exploding pop can, then you couldn't see anything but the smoke."
When rescue crews first arrived, they heard some buried employees screaming for help, said Police Chief Bob Halbert. "But television helicopters over the scene obliterated the noise of people yelling for help," he said. "We could not hear the voices of people crying."
Asked if the choppers might have contributed to any deaths, Halbert said, "That's speculation."
Valley View Hospital spokeswoman Catherine Evans said nine men and one woman remained hospitalized Monday night in serious or stable condition. Three others were treated and released,
she said, adding that two others who came to the hospital did not require treatment.
Those admitted suffered from flash burns, broken bones and cuts, but she added that "we don't have anyone in critical condition." Three fire-fighters also received minor injuries during the rescue operation, officials said.
The last survivors were pulled from the rubble about 2 1/2 hours after the blast, Copp said. Thick, black smoke poured throughout Monday from the building along the south bank of the Colorado River, 150 miles south of Denver.
Large spotlights were brought in at dusk to aid with the search.
"The major danger is getting the fire out without those walls falling on someone," Halbert said.
"We need to account for everyone without anyone else getting hurt."
"I was just stepping out of the building and I got thrown in the air with another guy," said MAYNARD CRANDELL, a gas company purchasing agent treated for minor injuries and released. "I'm one of the lucky ones. Some dear friends of mine, I know, didn't get out."

Indiana Gazette Pennsylvania 1985-12-17


Teri Luetke was my aunt, I

Teri Luetke was my aunt, I was just thinking about the explosion and decided to Google it. Was she the gal you played softball with? I read some of the articles and learned some stuff I didn't know, so sad! My uncle Bud (Rich) is my mom's brother.

I Remember

(NOTE: This explosion killed 12 people, not 11.) I was the press foreman at the Glenwood Post when this happened, and I remember it well. A gal I'd played softball with was killed. It was such a sad time. Glenwood Springs surely had some terrible tragedies over the course of about 14 years, with this propane explosion, a mine explosion up valley (killing 13), and the fire on Storm King Mountain (killing 14).