Electra, TX Gas Truck Into Rest Home, Aug 1962


Electra, Texas, Aug. 25 -- A runaway heating-gas truck, abandoned by its driver after bursting into flames, crashed into a rest home yesterday, setting off an inferno that killed three elderly patients.
"It was just like a lighted torch spewing a stream of fire in the front door," the rest home operator said of the butane truck that slammed into the entrance.
About 35 bedridden or mental patients in the Hillcrest Haven rest home were rescued. One suffered slight injuries.
The three that died perished in flames that swept the modern one-story structure and caused an estimated $100,000 damage.
Electra is a city of about 5,000, located 28 miles northwest of Wichita Falls in north Texas.
WALTER BLEVINS, co-owner and operator of the rest home, said he saw the truck coming down the road.
"Everything happened so fast that the next thing I knew the truck was in the front of the building. Everyone that was evacuated was evacuated in less than 15 minutes ... before the flames and heat became unbearable," he said.
Witnesses said the driver of the truck, DAN CRAIGHEAD, 22, of Electra, leaped from the vehicle as it neared the rest home. It had caught fire two miles away, Sheriff Ham Vance said. There was no explanation why it could not be stopped.
MRS. JAY R. THOMAS, who lived across the street from the home, said CRAIGHEAD came to her door crying, "Oh my God, my God, help me."
MRS. THOMAS said she ran to the telephone and called the Electra emergency number.
"When I got back to the door, he was out in the front lawn rolling over and over in the grass. About that time, a motorist came by and took him to the hospital," she said. Authorities said his injuries were not believed serious.
An hour before, patients had left the dining room just off the main entrance of the rest home where the truck hit.
Ninety minutes later, BLEVINS said, many would have been in the recreation hall -- almost under the wheels of the truck.
The dead were identified as MRS. MARY LEE SORRELIS, 87, of Electra; MRS. MAUD BARKER, 83, of Dallas; and MRS. MYRTLE HUNT, age unknown, of Electra.

The Bridgeport Post Connecticut 1962-08-25