Meldrim, GA Tanker Car Gas Explosion, Jun 1959

Meldrim Georgia Disaster Meldrim GA Memorial Placque on Pier.JPG Meldrim GA Memorial Placque.JPG

17 Victims Are Counted As Tanker Cars Spread Death at Picnic Site.

Many Others Are Burned In Georgia.

MELDRIM, Ga., (AP) - Rescue teams renewed dragging operations in the Ogeechee River today searching for more victims of a freak butane gas explosion that already apparently has claimed 17 lives. Many other persons were burned, at least 10 critically.

The blast occurred about 3:30 Sunday afternoon. Two railroad tanker cars spewed flaming death on some 175 fun-seekers in a recreation area beneath a 30-foot river trestle which the Seaboard Air Line train was crossing.

No one could say whether all bodies had been recovered, but Coroner Harold M. Smith said reports that dozens were accounted for were greatly overdrawn.

Smith said at the time he had accounted for 15 dead.

Since then two children died of burns in a Savannah hospital. They were listed as WAYNE SMITH, 3, and TERRY LANE, 9.

14 Are Identified
A complete casualty list was not available but 14 dead have been identified. Some bodies were so badly burned that identification was difficult.

The railroad said the explosion of one butane tanker set off a second loaded with 10,000 gallons of the cooking and heating fuel. Two trainmen were injured in the blast and the pileup of freight cars near the end of the long train.

The blast turned the Ogeechee River bank into blackened ruins several hundred yards from the trestle. It caught some of the victims in the water, others on the bank. Children seared by the flames floundered in the river or ran screaming from the spot.

Second Blast Comes
A second but lesser explosion came after rescuers reached the scene near this East Georgia town about 18 miles northwest of Savannah.

Most of the 124 cars in the Seaboard Air Line Railroad freight had cleared the 30-foot high trestle before the crash at 3:30 p. m. None fell in the water, but several piled up on the bank and burned through the night. Some of the cars were telescoped. Flat cars dangles from a 75-foot long break at the end of the 250-yard span.

First reports said the journal on one of the cars apparently broke. Some observers thought the trestle gave way.

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