Frankford, PA Oil Stove Explosion, Jul 1896


An Exploding Oil Stove Does Awful Work.

Probable Fatal Injuries to Two and a Rescuer Is Terrible Injured in Frankford.

Three people, one of them a deaf mute, who could not hear the cries of warning, were terribly burned yesterday by the explosion of an oil stove at the home of Herman Belles, No. 4363 Penn street, Frankford. The victims were:

BENJAMIN WISKWOSKY, aged 25 years, of No. 1232 Austin street, terribly burned about legs and abdomen.

GEORGE W. PATTERSON, of No. 4261 Penn street, hands, arms and chest burned.

WILLIAM HEMPLE, aged 5 years, of No. 4262 Penn street, face, head and arms burned.

The explosion was terrific, and while the fire in the house was quickly, put out, everything in the kitchen was blown almost to pieces. Strange to say, Mrs. Belles, who was present, escaped injury. Wiskwosky, who is employed as an agent and driver by Baldy & Fritzgerald, of No. 1025 Market street, stopped at the Belles home, trying to sell Mrs. Belles a clothes wringer. While he was talking Mrs. Belles said her oil stove was out of order and Wiskwosky volunteered to repair it. He tinkered awhile at the stove and then announced that it was all right.

Taking a match he endeavored to light one of the burners and in an instant the crash came. Mrs. Belles rushed out unhurt, but Wiskwosky was knocked to the floor, his clothing a mass of flames. He screams and the noise of the explosion caused the neighbors to rush in, headed by George Patterson, from his home next door.

Patterson at once seized a piece of carpet to save Wiskwosky, and in his attempt to roll the injured man in it Patterson’s clothing became ignited. He succeeded in smothering the flames on his won arms, and Wiskwosky, maddened by pain, rushed out into the yard.

Meanwhile, Willie Hemple, a deaf mute living across the street, saw the excitement, and unable to hear the cries of warning the child rushed into the burning room.

Almost as he entered his clothing took fire and he ran, making piteous motions for help into the yard. Neighbors threw him into a blanket and smothered the flames, and also assisted Patterson to put out his burning clothing.

Wiskwosky’s clothing had burned itself out and the pain-crazed man rushed aimlessly out into the street. He ran two squares, pursed by people who would have helped him, and finally fell exhausted near Gordon’s drug store. He was carried to the Episcopal Hospital. Wiskwosky was lost sight of in the excitement and another trip was necessary to get him to the hospital. It was found that he has little chance to live as his abdomen is literally roasted. Patterson is badly burned, but will recover, but Hemple’s injuries are considered very dangerous.

Throughout the excitement, Mr. Belles lay upstairs in the house ill with typhoid fever and the shock caused him to sink to a dangerous condition. Engine company No. 7 put out the fire with little damage to the house.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA 25 Jul 1896