Omaha, NE (near) Ammo Truck And Auto Collide, Oct 1953



Omaha (AP) -- An ammunition truck rammed a passenger car on a busy 4-lane highway 10 miles west of here last night and then let go with a series of explosions showering fragments of artillery shells over a wide area.
Three persons were killed and two injured. A fourth death was attributed indirectly to the collision and fire. The co-owner of a nearby inn died of a heart attack.
The series of explosions -- one spectator counted 73 -- imperiled hundreds of persons attracted to the scene by the fiercely burning blaze, as shell fragments showered down. Several of the buildings at Boys Town, widely known home for boys, were struck by fragments of flying metal.
The explosions began about 45 minutes after the collision at 7:40 p.m. (EST) and it was more than three hours before firemen could reach the vehicles and recover the charred bodies.
The victims were three sisters: LAURA McCLASKEY, 67, and THEO McCLASKEY, 72, both of Geneva, Ill., and MRS. HARRIE PAIGE, 65 of Omaha.
A fourth occupant of their car, MRS. W. H. McCLASKEY, 60, of Edmonds, Wash., said after the collision she "somehow managed to open a door and tumble out." She was hospitalized with burns on her arms, cuts and shock. Hospital Attendants said her condition was satisfactory early today.
LAWRENCE DAVIS, 29, of Omaha, driver of the ammunition truck, said an Omaha-bound car just ahead of him in the inside lane slowed down suddenly and he swerved to the right-hand lane to avoid striking it. There his heavy truck hit the slow-moving car carrying the four women.
DAVIS told a reporter he was going "about 50 miles per hour when my truck hit the rear of the car. I don't know how I got out of the cab." He was not seriously injured.
MRS. McCLASKEY said "there was this crunch and it seemed that immediately fire was everywhere."
Col. Walter J. Seely, commanding officer of the Nebraska Ordnance Plant at Wahoo, Neb., said there were "512 rounds of 105 (millimeter) shells in the truck. They were complete with primers and seven bags of powder per shell."
He said when the truck hit the car, one of the gas tanks burst and apparently set off the others.
"The fire apparently got hot enough to set aflame everything in the truck ... this heat started the shells to bursting ..."
ROBERT O'KEEFE, who lives near the scene started from his home to the highway when he saw three other explosives trucks parked along the highway. He said although he hadn't driven a big trailer truck rig since his Army days six years ago he leaped in and drove first one and then the other truck out of the danger area. Someone else moved the third truck.
In the excitement CHESTER DAGERMAN, co-owner of the Ten-Mile Inn, collapsed of a heart attack and died.

The Progress-Index Petersburg Virginia 1953-10-10