Noel, MO Explosion Kills One, Aug 1969

Madison Courier newspaper, Madison, IN
Monday 4 August 1969; Page 3, Column 4

Explosion Kills One In Missouri Railroad Town

By Don Reeder
Associated Press Writer

Noel, MO (AP) - "It blew the hell out of things." said Kenneth Meador.

One piece of metal ripped through a wall of Mrs. Roxa MILLER's house, killing the 47-year-old beauty parlor operator.

An 800-pound railroad car wheel soared three blocks and smashed into the home of Virgil Bentley, seriously injuring his wife.

Roofs caved in. Walls buckled. Main street was carpeted with shattered glass from store fronts. More than 40 persons were injured. Pieces of shattered railroad cars were thrown half a mile. At the site of the explosion, there was a hole 15 feet deep and 50 feet across in the railway roadbed.

"Practically every building in town is damaged," said Meador, who operates a gas station.

The mystery blast shattered a 115-car Kansas City Southern freight train as it was passing through the community Sunday.

Officials pieced together this report:

About 3:45 a.m. as the freight train rolled into Noel en route from Kansas City to Shreveport, LA, the crew spotted a fire on one of the cars.

"They tried to get the train out of town before it blew up, but they didn't make it," said J. W. Braswell, local station agent.

There was a relatively minor first explosion.

The volunteer fire department and some other residents were rushing to the scene when a second, devastating blast occurred. The sound of the explosion was hear as far as 40 miles away.

Ambulances, fire trucks, law enforcement officials and volunteer from communities in nearby Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas rushed to Noel. Most of the injured were taken to hospitals in Gravette and Bentonville, Arkansas.

Railroad officials were uncertain just what blew up. Chief suspects were cars carrying dehydrated alfalfa and ammonium perchlorate - the latter an oxidizing agent in powder form used as a propellant in munitions.

The explosion severed some pipes on a propane gas tank standing beside the tracks, and a fire ignited which began burning off escaping fumes.

Authorities feared the 12,500 gallon tank would explode and perhaps touch off two other tanks next to it.

Police ordered the town evacuated at 2 p.m. while employes(sic) of the Empire Gas Co. rigged a 2 1/2-inch pipeline to the tank's main valve. Just before 6 p.m. they turned a valve allowing the propane to flow in liquid form through the pip and ignited it.

The fuel billowed into a 3- foot flame, which roared harmlessly over a ditch and by 10:30 p.m. the tank was safely drained.

And through it all, vacationers and tourists kept paddling their canoes and fishing in the Elk River not half a mile away from devastated Noel.

Roxa Adeline Miller
Find A Grave Memorial# 20774684