Firemen and Equipment Rushed from Communities in 200-Mile Radius and Prompt Assistance Was Given by Oil Companies

AN illegal tap made to a gas line from an oil field in New London, Tex., was responsible for an explosion that caused the death of nearly five hundred school children and teachers of the Consolidated School, and completely wrecked the building. The blast happened at 3:05 p.m. on March 18. The high school had 730 students enrolled and a faculty of thirty-two teachers.

There were twenty class rooms in a building five hundred feet long by 125 feet deep. The center portion was three . tories high, but the major portion was two stories high. Little wood was used in its construction, and since the school was a little over a year old, it was modern in every respect. It had concrete floors, tile walls, and white brick on the outside. The building was located in the heart of the East Texas oil field.

When the explosion came, it seemed as though the building blew up and fell back in the same place, pinning the bodies beneath. Cars within a radius of five hundred feet were completely wrecked by the blast. The school had a fleet of buses for the transportation of children, and some were outside being loaded. All those in the buses were killed outright.

Every type of car was used for the transportation of the injured and dead— delivery trucks, sedans and ambulances. They were moved to all towns in the district where aid could be secured.

The School as It Appeared Before the Blast

Martial law was declared at once, and members of the National Guard prevented people from approaching the wreck.

Fire apparatus responded from Henderson, Kilgare, Longview, Overton and Beaumont. A light truck was sent from Beaumont and was just the thing to aid in searching for bodies in the ruins, and for lighting up the work during the evening hours. Extra firemen responded from Shreveport, Gladwater. and as far as Ardmore, Okla., a municipality two hundred miles away. Even Beaumont had to travel a distance of two hundred miles.

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In addition there were about one hundred power trucks from the oil fields, equipped with powerful winches, trucks with dump bodies, and electric and acetylene equipment for cutting through the heavy steel girders of the demolished building. Caterpillar tractors and draglines were used to pick up and load the debris in dump bodies.

Consolidated School of New London, Tex., Shortly After the Explosion Took Place

Several small fires started as the result of the explosion, but these were not serious and were quickly extinguished.

The utility company responded at once. It set up a number of poles on which were placed large spotlights for illuminating the grounds. Portable lights were also used.

About 1,000 men worked to recover the bodies. No time was lost in the rescue work. Many of those in the rescue party had children who were in the school when the blast took place. The school had its own gas wells but three hundred feet away.

While it was most unfortunate that the accident did occur, the proximity to the oil fields was of immeasurable help. The major oil companies did everything possible. They rushed men from the oil fields to assist in the rescue work. They sent powerful trucks and supplies, gasoline, water and other material.

In addition to the rescue workers, there were representatives from the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Boy Scouts and other organizations. They supplied the workers with sandwiches, coffee, water, cigarettes and first aid supplies.

A hospital was set up on the school grounds for emergency treatment.

The catastrophe is being investigated by the State Department of Education, and an investigating committee from the State Senate.


2009: Hazmat Survival Tips: Surviving a Response to a Leak of Natural Gas

2017: Gas Emergencies: 10 Life-Safety Tactics

2017, Jerry Knapp and Daniel Moran: Improving Response Procedures to Natural Gas Emergencies | Natural Gas Emergency Strategy and Tactics | Training for Natural Gas Emergencies

2018: Tactical Procedures for Responding to Natural Gas Emergencies


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