Orwigsburg, PA Gas Truck Explosion, June 1959
PROBERS TO SEEK CAUSE OF TANKER BLAST FATAL TO 11.
Pottsville, Pa. (UPI) -- Five marshals sought today the cause of a gas truck explosion that killed 11 persons and injured 10 others. One victim remainde unidentified.
The blast Tuesday turned the liquid propane-filled steel tank of the truck into a flaming projectile that hurled spectators and firemen hundreds of feet. It was set off when the truck caught fire after a highway collision.
The victims in some cases were decapitated and torn by the flaming flight of the tank, ripped jet-like from its chassis by the blast in 7,000 gallons of liquid propane gas. The tank, spitting bits of metal like shrapnel, landed 150 yards away.
The explosion occurred 30 minutes after the Sun Gas Propane Co. truck halted behind a school bus picking up a passenger and was rammed in the rear by another truck on rain-slick Route 122, near Orwigsburg.
About 85 school children in buses ahead and behind the two stricken vehicles escaped injury when their alert drivers sped from the scene, one cutting across a field.
Two bodies were hurled against the windshield of State Trooper Earl Klinger's automobile parked 300 feet from the explosion site. Klinger said he saved himself by "ducking under the dashboard."
Representatives of the Interstate Commerce Commission joined fire marshals in a study of the accident as police continued efforts to identify the 11th victim of the disaster. He was described as a heavy-set man in a red and black checkered shirt.
Five of the 10 injured were reported in serious condition.
The injured included JOSEPH WHARTON, 48, Peckville, driver of the propane truck, and WALTER WILLIAMS, 54, Reading, operator of the tractor-trailer which rammed it.
The identified dead were:
Fireman EARL HILLIBUSH, 77.
Fireman CLIFFORD KRINER, 40.
C. RAY ERB.
LEON KIMMEL, 50.
WILLIAM STERNER, 19, all of Orwigsburg.
PAUL MYER, 31, Pottsville.
ARTHUR MYERS, 47, Pottsville.
WAYNE WOLFE, 18, Pottsville.
JAMES S. LEITZEL, 53, Shenandoah.
ROBERT WESNER, 31, Molino.
Sgt. Michael Wisniewski and trooper John Ripka, marshals from the state police barracks at Reading, conducted the investigation. Representatives of the Interstate Commerce Commission also made a study of the accident.
They were John Barry, Philadelphis, and Kenneth Davis and James Jeffrey, of Scranton.
At least two of the dead were firemen from the Friendship Hose Co. at Orwigsburg. They were among fire fighters attempting to keep the flames from spreading to a nearby home when the tank exploded in a "tornado-like ball of fire."
Lebanon Daily News Pennsylvania 1959-06-03