Great Bend, KS Tire Company Explosion, Sep 1965


Great Bend, Kan. (AP) -- A violent explosion ripped through Foree Tire Co., 18th and Main Streets, around 10:10 a.m. today, killing one man and seriously injuring three others.
ROGER WARNKEN, 24, 3727 22nd was killed instantly when an air compressor located in the southeast corner of the back shop ruptured. WARNKEN was apparently nearest to the compressor tank when it exploded. The heavy steel tank was ripped open and slammed across the shop against the north wall. One of the dead man's legs was severed when he was struck by the flying tank.
Injured in the accident were ELMER BECKER, 48, Rt. 3, his son RONNIE BECKER, 23, also of Rt. 3, and RAY LAMB, 50, 1210 9th Street.
WARNKEN, an employe of Foree's for the past seven years was shop foreman according to Harold Becker, Foree vice-president.
Becker said that as far as he was able to tell, only the four men were in the shop when the explosion occurred. A total of 15 persons are employed by the tire firm. The other employes, he said, were outside the building or on the road.
The firm is in the process of moving its location to the old Dee Dove Buick building on West 10th and had the majority of its equipment outside the building. The compressor that exploded had been left to service customers during the move.
The extent of the injuries of the three was not available at press time today but it appeared that RONNIE BECKER was the most seriously injured. His father ELMER suffered facial lacerations and other possible injuries. LAMB also suffered lacerations. The two attending physicians had one of the injured in surgery and could not be reached for comment.
Dale Foree, president of the firm, said the explosion must have been caused by a mechanical failure. "The compressors" he said, "have a pop-off valve that blows when a certain pressure is reached and it apparently failed to function properly."
Becker said the firm had been in business for 13 years and that today's accident was the first serious accident he could recall.
The force of the explosion ripped out a portion of the east wall of the brick building and knocked out most of the windows throughout the entire building. Damage, according to Foree, will run into the thousands of dollars.
Mrs. Herbert Stevenson, Rt. 1, company bookkeeper, was uninjured although a portion of the ceiling of the office was knocked down by the impact. "I'm a little dusty and shaken," she said, "but otherwise I'm alright."
Louis Prosser, operator of the Prosser Liquor Store, located next door south, said that liquor bottles were knocked from the shelves and that a portion of the tile ceiling caved in when the tank blew. Prosser, uninjured but extremely shaken by the ordeal, closed his shop for the rest of the day.
"We're out of business for a few days," Becker said, "but we will still try to service our customers that haven't picked up their tires. We will continue our moving to the new location and get going again as soon as possible.
The condition of RAY LAMB, 50, 1210 9th, is listed as "serious but not critical."
LAMB, according to his physician, is suffering from a seriously injured right hand and multiple lacerations to his arms and legs.
ELMER BECKER, 48, Rt. 3, also injured, is listed in satisfactory condition. BECKER, the physician said, suffered extensive facial lacerations. He is also being treated for a large number of wooden splinters from the compressor base that were driven into his legs.
BECKER'S son RONNIE, 23, at first reportedly the most seriously injured, had his hands and legs impregnated with oil or some other chemical blown from inside the compressor. He is reported in satisfactory condition.

Great Bend Daily Tribune Kansas 1965-09-30