Marietta, OH Church Boiler Explosion, Oct 1971



Marietta, Ohio (AP) -- Religious classes were in progress on all three floors of the Sunday school wing of the First Baptist Church here Sunday when an explosion tore through the building.
Five of the 140 persons in the building died -- four teenagers and a teacher -- and 14 others were injured.
The explosion came at 11:28 a.m. Services had ended in the main church building at 11, and a few people remained there, listening to organ music.
"We heard a noise in the pipes about five minutes earlier," said 14-year-old DIANE SLAUGHTER, one of eleven students in the basement classroom beneath the street level boiler room. Fire officials said the boiler exploded.
DIANE said the class didn't think much about the noise at the time, but then "the wall above us fell in."
Her classmates took the brunt of the blast when the boiler room floor buckled, burying them in rubble.
The teacher, MICHAEL MURPHY, 30, married and the father of one child, was killed as were RICKY MORRIS, GARY HOLLY and CAROL JOY, all ninth graders, and HEATHER DAWSON, a high school sophomore. Fourteen others were injured.
WILLIAM HICKMAN, a Sunday school teacher who was knocked down by the blast, said his first thought was of a nearby nursery classroom, next to the boiler room.
"I don't see how anybody in there survived," he said.
"Most of the floor in there had gone, it had fallen into the basement."
MRS. FRED COMBS, the nursery school teacher, said she had heard nothing, only the "furnace rumbling shortly before it happened."
"I had three, two-year-old children in my classroom," she said. "They were all buried in the rubble."
State Fire Marshall Robert Lynch said his team of investigators remained at the church through the night, searching for the cause of the explosion.
Twenty-two months ago a nursing home fire on the city's West Side claimed 31 lives and sparked a nationwide investigation into nursing home safety.

Journal News Hamilton Ohio 1971-10-11