Edson, AB (near) Pipeline Explosion, Jan 1962
8 MEN BLOWN TO BITS IN PIPELINE EXPLOSION.
Edson, Alta. (CP) -- Eight workmen died and four were injured Tuesday when an explosion and fire tore a big natural gas pipeline to shreds at an almost isolated spot in the bush 35 miles northwest of this town.
Names of the dead were not released. Bodies were to be sent to Edmonton, 20 miles east, for positive identification.
A 12-man party was testing the gas line when the explosion hit. Bits of metal, clothing, machinery and flesh made the area look like a battlefield.
It was the worst accident of its kind in Canada and perhaps in North America.
W. E. BOLT of Tulsa, Okla., general superintendent of Piggott Pipeline Company of Calgary which employed the men who were testing a pipeline, arrived here late Tuesday to take part in the investigation.
"There have been explosions of this kind before in British Columbia, Texas and one in Oklahoma last year which took six lives," he said. "But this was the worst I know of in this country and more severe than what generally occurs under the testing procedures we go through."
One witness said the blast area looked like a battlefield. Sections of the 20-inch pipeline were shredded like tissue paper. Another said there seemed to be two explosions. Fire which followed destroyed two tractors.
Survivors said they were facing away from the blast and had no idea what happened. REINHART WELCH of Calgary was in critical condition in Edson Hospital suffering burns to 45 per cent of his body. EDMUND LA CHAPELLE of Regina was in fair condition, ROBERT WESTMAN of Calgary and PIERRE GAGNE of Shoal Lake, Man., were released following treatment for burns.
Only heavy trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles could reach the site, over a 25-mile lumbering trail in bush and muskeg country, to bring out survivors and the dead.
The explosion was believed to have occurred about 10 a.m., when temperatures were three degrees below zero. By late Tuesday, temperatures fell to 25 degrees below zero and snow was falling as vehicles carried the charred bodies to Edmonton where attempts will be made to identify them.
An ambulance driver who reached the scene in a heavy truck, said:
"I don't kow how they are going to be identified except by examination of dental plates or the bone scars of possible old injuries, maybe broken legs or arms or something."
"It was one of the most fantastically grotesque sights you could imagine. I saw three bodies and a pile of clothing which had obviously parts of a human body inside it. Their bodies were grozen solid in the most grotesque positions."
Another witness said:
"It was the worst thing I have ever seen and I went through the last war in the services. Bodies were strewn over an area 400 to 500 feet in diameter."
The 12-man testing crew was working on two sections of a 20-inch feeder line connected to the main 30-inch Alberta Gas trunk line. The blast ripped up about 800 feet of pipe which ran through a trench about seven feet deep and seven feet wide.
The Brandon Sun Manitoba Canada 1962-01-17