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Liberal, Kas., Jan. 17 (AP) - An explosion flashed through a big pipeline compressor station here in the southwest corner of Kansas Wednesday, killing three workmen and threatening natural gas supplies as far east as Detroit.

Officials of Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Co. said they hoped to restore deliveries to 70 per cent of normal today.

They indicated this would mean no curtailment of gas for household use along Panhandle Eastern's system in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

Industrial users in the six states were cut off immediately.

The whole area presently is in the grip of a cold wave.

There were about 25 men in the plant. Fourteen were burned and battered by the explosion. Three were reported in critical condition.
Six others were in a hospital and five were released after treatment.

The blast blew the metal roof and sides off the main compressor building, 364 by 68 feet. It wrecked the engines and compressors. An adjoining machine shop was heavily damaged. Five other buildings and eight houses on the 80-acre plot 15 miles northeast of Liberal had lesser damage.

One company official said the loss might run several million dollars.
"Everything just went off in my face," said J. D. ARMSTRONG, one of the workmen injured.

"Pieces of metal and glass were flying all over the place and everything was on fire."

The fire burned two hours, fed by gas from broken lines, before valves could be closed.

Those killed were:
MELVIN SWAFFORD, 35, who lived on the station.
JAMES HANES, about 30, Paul's Valley, Okla.
IVAN HILL, about 40, Liberal.

A company spokesman said failure of a piece of equipment on a compressor engine caused the blast. Workmen said they heard a hissing noise just before the explosion.

The Liberal station collects gas through small pipelines from fields in southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles, compressing it and boosting it along 24 and 26-inch mains to the East. It once was the largest compressor station in the world.

McELHATTAN said Panhandle Eastern had arranged to buy gas from Northern Natural Gas Co. of Omaha and Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America in Chicago.

He said the company hopes to get an estimate today on how long it will take to restore the compressor plant.

The three reported in critical condition were EARL THATCHER and S. J. DOBBS, members of the plant staff, and DOUG WRIGHT of Liberal, a Trend Construction employe.

Others hospitalized included ARMSTRONG, E. W. HOUCHENS, SAMMY DOUGLAS, LLOYD HARRIS and LELYN BOLT of Liberal and JACK RHOADES of Plains, Kas.

Salina Journal
January 17, 1957

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