Michigan City, IN Explosion At Wreck Site, Nov 1956



Michigan City, Ind. (AP) --An explosion killed two more railroad men Wednesday as they began clearing the burning wreckage at a crossing where two trainmen and a gasoline truck driver had died.
Seven other train wreck crewmen were hurt, one of them critically, but the two crewmen whose acetylene torch was blamed for the blast escaped unhurt. State police said the torch burned into a diesel fuel line on one of the wrecked locomotives.
A Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad spokesman estimated a quarter of a million dollars damage resulted when the gasoline truck smashed into the side of the C&O freight train at a crossing on busy U.S. 20 Tuesday evening.
An all-night fire was still burning in parts of the train's 2 engines and in 5 of the 10 derailed freight cars when the crew began work to get the bodies of the three crash victims.
The bottom of one overturned locomotive blew 40 feet while the torch operators were trying to cut their way to the bodies of enginer RAY POWERS, 55, and fireman ROBERT H. JOHNSON, 38, both of Grand Rapids, Mich. The torchmen were not identified.
Killed by the exploding wreckage were OTTO KEEHN, 48, Wanatah, Ind., and GEORGE MARQUARDT, 56, LaCrosse, Ind., who had started track clearing.
After the explosion state police prohibited any further torch cutting. As a result, no further efforts were to be made to extricate the bodies of the trapped trainmen and the truck driver, CHARLIE WILSON, 50, Mishawaka, Ind., until a crane could turn the engine and truck upright.
FRED COSTELLO, a C&O representative at Grand Rapids, said the railroad has two witnesses who said flasher signals were operating at the crossing, three miles southwest of Michigan City. Indiana law requires gasoline trucks to stop for railroad crossings.
Another wreck crewman, reported in critical condition from a punctured right lung, was HOWARD HILEMAN, 50, Michigan City, conductor of the work train.
Reported in fair condition in Buffalo, Mich., who suffered head injuries in the blast.
Five other wreckers were reported in fairly good condition. They were HERSCHEL BELL, 37; CARL KORLECK, 51; and EMORY CRAFT, 37, all of LaPorte, Ind.; CARL BONIFACE, 49, Hartford, Mich.; and FLOYD HYSKA, 40, Michigan City.

Logansport Press Indiana 1956-11-29