Devers, TX Gas Line Explosion, May 1975

TEXAS GAS LINE RUPTURES; FIREBALL ENGULFS PASSING CAR.

Devers, Tex. (UPI) -- Four persons burned to death in their car had no warning of a gas line rupture or the ball of fire which engulfed them, eyewitness David Bond said today.
Bond, 36, of nearby Liberty, Tex., was driving west on the highway Monday when he saw some small pine trees by the road flame up. He pulled over to the right shoulder to see what he could do.
"About the time I got there, the leaking gas cut loose. The force of the explosion knocked my car across the road and almost into the ditch," he said. "There was a wall of flame that was several hundred feet high and at least that wide. I saw it engulf the other car before it even slowed down."
Before Bond could get close to the flaming car, its gas tank exploded.
"I couldn't see anybody moving in there," he said.
Authorities identified the victims as ALFRED and BETTY ASHWORTH of Beaumont, Tex., and two women from Starks, La., PEGGY LEE STROUD, 22, and GEORGIA STROUD, 54.
Sheriff R. E. Culbertson said the victims were burned beyond recognition.
The break in the gas line, which belongs to a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co., was 30 yards off the highway. The explosion and fire melted and buckled a section of Santa Fe Railroad tracks 70 yards away.
A Dow spokesman gave no explanation for the break.
Bond, who was treated at a Liberty hospital for shock, said he was lucky to be alive.
"I was right there at the explosion," he said. "I guess that's what saved me. I caught the force of the explosion, but that's the section that doesn't flare up."
Feeling the heat, Bond said he threw his car into reverse and backed away from it.
"I was thinking my car was going up any minute," he said.
When he got out of range, he ran back to the scene, where the open gas line was spewing fire like a blow torch.
"But by the time I could do anything, there was nothing but bones left," he said.

Kingsport Times Tennessee 1975-05-13