Beattyville, KY Gasoline Tanker Explosion, Sep 1977


Beattyville, Ky. (UPI) - The residents of the small mountain town of Beattyville, shocked by the deaths of seven neighbors in the explosion of a runaway gasoline tank truck, talked Sunday about ending the risk of similar accidents.
The last of the seven bodies was recovered shortly before midnight Saturday, 14 hours after a truck laden with more than 8,000 gallons of fuel veered off the steep hill that leads into town, smashed, and dumped its explosive load.
In addition to the deaths, the explosion and fire that rampaged through more than a dozen buildings did damage that could amount to $1 million.
As local Episcopalians opened their church Sunday to Presbyterians who had lost their building to the flames. Mayor Charles Beach III reckoned that the impact of the crash on the town would be enormous.
"Seven people in a town of 1,000 is a lot of people," he said. "It's the worst tragedy in my life in this community."
The victims were killed apparently as they ate, dozed or were getting their hair done.
Officials Sunday identified them as: restaurant owner GLADYS FIGHTS; WOODROW WILSON, an invalid in his 70s who lived above the restaurant; beauty salon operator JUDY GABBARD, and four customers in her shop next to the restaurant.
As bulldozers cleaned up the rubble-filled streets, residents recalled fearing that the hilly main road leading into town, Kentucky Rt. 11, was dangerous. They have been after the state to improve it since the early 1960s.
Truck driver WILLIAM WILSON, 40, Louisville, told authorities his brakes went out as he headed down the steep hill. "I was going to try to stop but I couldn't," he said. "I didn't want to hurt nobody, so I tried to hit the building first. But I glanced off that and went down on the street.

Hartford Courant Connecticut 1977-09-26