Lake City, MN Variety Store Gas Explosion, Oct 1972


LAKE CITY, Minn. (AP) -- A search ended today for more victims of a gas line explosion that leveled a variety store about the time several children were going in and out to collect prizes for a Halloween coloring contest. Six people were killed and nine injured.
Three of those killed in the accident Monday were children. Five other youngsters were among the injured.
More than 100 police, firemen and volunteers searched throughout the night for other possible victims, but that was temporarily called off at dawn and a Police Department spokesman said there was no indication any others were trapped in the rubble.
There were 10 to 15 persons in the store when the explosion occurred shortly before the 5 p. m. closing time.
"I happened to be looking across the street when I saw a flash of light, the roof coming down and dust blowing out," said Jerry Nihart, a clerk at a store across the street. "Then the noise came."
The dead, all of the Lake City area, were identified as MRS. RAY KEHREN, her son, TIMOTHY, 10, who died in a Rochester hospital; KRISTINE McELMURY, about 4; MRS. RAY RODEWALD; and two clerks at the store, MARJORIE FREIHEIT, about 40, and ELAINE DAMMANN, about 32.
Linda Farrington, who operated the two-story concrete block-brick Ben Franklin store with her widowed mother, Mrs. M. G. Farrington, said both were standing near an entrance when the blast occurred.
"There was the boom," she said. "That's about it. That's all I want to say ... all I can say now."
Howard Holmgren, the Lake City representative for the Northern States Power Co., said the explosion was triggered when a bulldozer working on a nearby power company construction project ruptured the power firm's gas main.
Volunteers and fire fighting units from surrounding communities converged on the little industrial town which sits along the Mississippi River.
Among the injured were JOHN McELMURY, 29, a high school teacher and father of the dead girl.
Acrid smoke, persistent rain and standing water hampered their efforts. The bodies of the two sales clerks were pulled out of the wreckage about three hours after the explosion.

The Kokomo Tribune Indiana 1972-10-31