Historic Fire: Tragic gas explosion in a school kills 294 students and teachers

Blog Post created by maryelizabethwoodruff Employee on Mar 18, 2016


On March 18, 1937, the London, Texas Consolidated High School suffered a tragedy due to an explosion that killed 294 students and teachers.  H. Oram Smith of the Texas Inspection Bureau was involved in the investigation and his account of the disaster was published in the NFPA Quarterly.  He described that the "blast occurred with the suddenness characteristic of such explosions although with some unusual features.  Every witness agreed that there was but one explosion and that it was a low rumbling noise, with none of the blast or roar that might be expected."  He went on to explain that the total destruction in the blast area was evidence of great force with the description of a car, located 200 feet from the blast, "crushed like an eggshell" under the slab of concrete propelled from the building.


It is thought that the explosion was caused by a gas in an improperly vented space underneath the floor.  One of the students who survived noted that a teacher was in the act of plugging in a power tool at the time when the explosion took place.


The casualties were great, with 294 fatalities and at least 39 serious injuries. Remarkably, three boys who were at the far end of the room where the explosion occurred were blown into the rear addition of the school, surviving with only minor injuries.


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