Monticello, UT Gas Explosion Rips Cafe, Aug 1956



Monticello, Utah (AP) -- An explosion in a cafe newly hooked to a natural gas line tore the brick and cinderblock building apart like a cardboard house and killed 15 of its 50 or more customers at the height of the dinner hour last night.
At least 30 persons were injured as the blast demolished the Lariat Cafe in this southeastern Utah cattle ranching and uranium town.
The explosion occurred at the 7 o'clock rush hour. The cafe was jammed with tourists, construction workers from nearby jobs, truckers and townspeople.
The cafe was on U.S. Highway 160 ono the edge of town. Only its sign was left standing. The wreckage did not burn.
Some of the bodies were blown through the wall. Rescue workers found two cases of eggs in the rubble. They were not broken.
Two utility company employes, JERRY FITCH, 28, and FRAN URRY, 18, both of Salt Lake City, survived. They had just begun to eat when the cafe flew apart. Said FITCH:
"The first thing I noticed, I was up in the air .. I just remember going straight up and coming down."
FITCH and URRY were blown out of the cafe and landed on the ground, unhurt.
"I remember one little boy shouting, 'My daddy's killed! My daddy's killed!' Then there was a little girl who cried, 'Momma's dead!' The identical thing practically. That was the thing that was really bad," FITCH said.
It was believed the explosion was caused by leaking natural gas. Some said the cafe had just been hooked up to a gas line. But Fire Chief Robert F. Bryan said he would conduct an investigation before commenting on the cause.
Nearly the entire town of about 2,300 went to the scene to help. Private homes and churches were turned into first aid units, or morgues.
Blood and serum albumen were flown from the Red Cross in Salt Lake City, 240 miles away.
Doctors and nurses were brought from surrounding communities to help the San Juan County Hospital staff of three doctors here.
The cafe seats 43. It was full and some were standing in line. The explosion occurred at 6:42 p.m.
"We heard the blast all over town," said Ben Hess, operator of a motel. "Some people were blown right through the wall. When we ran up, we found three people lying next to the road in front of the place."
Neaby was MRS. BERNICE SAULL, who said:
"The cafe was there one moment. I looked and then the next -- it just wasn't there."

Monticello (UP) -- The following are the known dead in the Monticello explosion.
MR. and MRS. REX LEON MILLER, Deerfield, Kan., and their daughter, JACQUELINE, 11, who died en route to Grand Junction, Colo. Their son, GERALD, 8, was injured.
ROBERT S. BALES, 2806 South 19th St., Newcastle, Ind., a tourist.
A 10-year-old boy believed to be ROBERT BALES' son.
RAY WILLIAM GRISSOM, 1430 E. Beach St., Pueblo, Colo., a truck driver for Pacific Intermountain Express Lines.
THEODORE S. SMITH, truck driver, Franklin, Ky.
EDNA SISK, Dove Creek, Colo.
HENRY GORMAN, Riverton, Utah.
NANCY ADAMS, 18, daughter of MRS. ADAMS.
WILLIAM MARK HARVEY, 511 Hayward St., Houston, Tex.
LYNN CURTNETT, infant, Monticello.
JOSEPH W. SWARS, 25, Grand Junction, who died in a Grand Junction hospital.
HARRY S. MOROCCO, Monticello, who died en route to Cortez.

Ogden Standard Examiner Utah 1956-08-14