Collinsville, IL Propane Tank Car Explosion, Aug 1978


Collinsville, Ill. (AP) -- The 200 residents who evacuated their homes when a tank car full of propane exploded have been told to stay away from their houses until at least Tuesday.
Two persons were injured early Sunday when the tank car derailed, exploded and threatened to explode four other tankers.
Police evacuated everyone within a half mile of the explosion site on the outskirts of town while firefighters attempted to keep the fire from spreading to the other propane cars, three of which also derailed.
Evacuated residents were asked late Sunday to remain away from their homes at least until Tuesday, when the fire was expected to burn itself out. After the area cools down, the propane would be pumped from the remaining tanks.
A man injured in the blast, WILBURN ALFORD, 37, of Troy was reported in serious condition in a St. Louis hospital. Police said ALFORD, who had stopped his truck at a railroad crossing, was burned when the train derailed near the crossing shortly after midnight and the tank car exploded.
Another motorist, GINA PENDLETON, 17, of Collinsville, was parked on the other side of the crossing. She was treated for burns and released.
Police said both were alone in their vehicles.
The blast and flash of red light came were seen 40 miles from the scene in west St. Louis County. One caller said the red fireball was "like a little atomic bomb," according to the Illinois State Police.
The explosion burned trees in a wide area around the site, charred railroad ties and a crossing warning sign and melted asphalt at the crossing.
After the explosion, police blocked nearby Interstate 55-70 for a brief time as a precaution.
Firemen continued wetting down the burning car and neighboring tanks throughout the day Sunday.
Collinsville firemen were assisted by departments from Maryville, Long Lake and Troy. Civil Defense units and auxillary police helped Collinsville police and Madison County deputies seal off the area and set up a command center in Collinsville. The American Red Cross set up a center for the evacuees at the Collinsville VFW Hall.
David E. Visney, a vice president for the Illinois Terminal Railroad, which operated the 63-unit train, said the cause of the derailment was not immediately apparent. He said more would be learned when inspectors could look at the derailed cars after the wreckage cooled.

The Daily Leader Pontiac Illinois 1978-08-07