Surnames of desceased: SIMMERING, CONKLIN, PARKER


Champlin Gas Station Explodes
in St. Ansgar


Waterloo Courier, Sept. 21, 1929

Manager of Filling Station, Customer And Girl Killed By Blast Of Air Compressor
Windows Broken by Force of Explosion; Patron's Wife Badly Burned.

St. Ansgar, Iowa, Sept. 21. (AP)—Three persons were killed and one was injured when the air compression plant under a gasoline filling station here exploded this morning.

The dead are: C. O. Parker, manager of the station, Henry Simmering, a customer, and Miss Doris Conklin, Mitchell.

Mrs. Henry Simmering was burned about the face and arms, but will recover. Miss Conklin was blown thru the roof of the station. A. B. Larsen, a truck driver, narrowly escaped being caught in the station driveway when the blast occurred. He had filled the gas tank on his truck and had just reached the street.

Firemen this afternoon were guarding the gasoline storage tanks lest fire should break out anew and cause another explosion. The air compression tank buried under the filling station exploded, at 10:40 a.m. while Parker was selling gasoline to Simmering. The latter had stepped out of his automobile in which his wife was seated.

Girl Killed in Rest Room.

Miss Conklin, the girl who was killed, was in the station restroom. The building was demolished, and the girl's body was not found till more than a half hour later. Parker lived an hour, but Simmering is believed to have died immediately.

Fire started in various parts, of the debris but the two gasoline tanks were not affected. The explosion broke windows in surrounding buildings and was heard, thruout this Mitchell county town.

Investigators this noon had not determined how pressure in the buried air tank could become so great.

Public Library Damaged.

St. Ansgar, Iowa, Sept. 21.—The explosion of C.O. Parker's gasoline station here in which the owner and two customers died caused extensive property damage in the area in which the wrecked building was situated. The public library, nearest the station, received the first brunt of the blast and will require much repairing. Windows in business buildings for several blocks were blown out and the damage of this type also extended into the residential section.

Miss. Doris Conklln,- one of the two customers killed outright, had driven from her home in Mitchell to visit friends here and, trouble developing in her car, stopped at the station. She was 17 years old. Parker was 56.

Mrs. Simmering May Recover.

Simmering had left his wife in their automobile, for which he was buying oil and gasoline, and was standing beside Parker when the blast came. Mrs. Simmering is seriously burned and injured by missiles from the wrecked station. She has chance for recovery, attendants say.

The gasoline storage tanks were intact and their contents unharmed when the fire in the station was brought under control. Work of clearing the site sufficiently to disclose there were no other victims was completed at noon.

An inquest will be held.



Waterloo Courier, Sept. 23, 1929

(Articles from the Waterloo Evening Courier; Waterloo, Iowa; Monday, September 23, 1929)



Municipal Probe into Disaster is Set for Tuesday

Blast originated in Basement, Near Gasoline Storage Tanks

Business in St. Ansgar suspended today between 1 and 2:30 p.m. while services were being conducted for C. O. Parker, manager, who was fatally injured in the blast which destroyed a gasoline service station here Saturday.

St. Ansgar, Ia. : The official investigation into the service station explosion which on Saturday caused three deaths here, has been postponed until Tuesday, to await arrival of County Attorney Fred Bush as adviser to the local authorities. Mayor Ed Tessman and other municipal officials desire to confer with the county attorney in making the investigation, to assure that all possible angles may be covered, they said this morning.

Parker not Smoker

Charles Parker, the station manager, who died of burns and injuries an hour after the blast, did not smoke, it has been learned. Henry Simmering and Doris Conklin, customers who died in the explosion, are said to have occasionally indulged in smoking. Investigation of the wreckage, which will not be cleared until after the formal investigation tomorrow, indicated the explosion occurred in the concrete chamber in the basement, as all remaining fragments project outward from that point.

Was Pioneer Station

The station, one of the first erected here, had been in operation nine years, most of that time with Parker as manager.

Trace Blast to Motor

Of the several probable causes advanced unofficially for the terrific filling station blast here last Saturday which snuffed out the lives of three persons, including the proprietor of the station, the one which best seems to explain an explosion followed by devastating fire is that gasoline fumes were ignited by the spark from an electric motor.

Officials of the Champlin Oil company from Mason City, whose products were handled by the station, started an investigation Saturday of this probability, based upon these known facts.

First: The filling station occupied the site of what formerly had been a business building with a basement. When the filling station was erected, the basement was left, and the two large gasoline tanks were placed within the walls instead of being buried underground at a distance from the station as is the case in most stations.

Motor Generates Sparks

Second: In close proximity to the gasoline tanks was an air compressor outfit, operated by an electric motor. Observers pointed out that a motor must be in perfect condition to not emit sparks from its brushes, when current is turned into it, as when the air compressor outfit would start up.

Few motors are maintained in such efficient manner that they do not spark at the brushes, according to a St. Ansgar electrician who was making a private investigation after the tragedy. Following the blast, it was discovered that both tanks remained intact and full of gasoline. A few moments before, the explosion, B. A. Larson, agent for the Champlin Oil company here, had driven his tank truck out of the station, after putting in 663 gallons of gasoline.

Leakage of Gasoline

More likely it is believed than that the air compressor tank exploded, is that one of the gasoline tanks had a small leak and that when the mixture of air and gasoline became just right outside the tank, a spark from the compressor motor ignited the mixture.

The bodies of the victims, Charles Parker, 60, owner of the station, Henry Simmering, 64, of St. Ansgar, and Miss Doris Conklin, 18, Mitchell, were mangled and burned. Mr. & Mrs. Simmering were on their way to visit relatives at Titonka, IA, and had just had oil and gasoline placed in their car. Simmering accompanied Parker into the gas station while the latter made change and the blast came as the two emerged from the door.

Woman May Recover

Mrs. Simmering remained in the car and was caught by a mass of flaming debris falling around her, although she managed to drag herself free. She was painfully burned however and suffered greatly from shock. She has a chance for recovery altho her condition is grave. The car was a charred skeleton.

Parker lived for an hour after the explosion but it is believed that Simmering and the Conklin girl were killed instantly. Miss Conklin was in the women’s restroom. With her father and a brother, she was en route to Austin, MN.

Wreckage of the station became a funeral pyre for the three victims, blazing furiously for more than a half hour before it was brought under control. Parker’s agonizing cries spurred scores of volunteer workers.

Fragments Blown Block

The wall of the public library next to the filling station was caved in by the concussion and all the windows on that side were broken out. Book shelves were loosened and tumbled toward the center of the reading room and books were strewn about. Bits of wood and stone from what had been the filling station were blown a block and windows of residences and business buildings at a considerable distance from the station were broken.

Parker moved to St. Ansgar in the spring of 1920, from a farm between St. Ansgar and Otranto. He had owned a filling station at Fourth and Washington streets for a number of years. Simmering had been a resident of this place for a long period of years.

Henry Simmering

The funeral of Henry Simmering, customer who was killed in the explosion and fire, will take place Wednesday afternoon at St. Ansgar’s German Lutheran church. The service is being deferred in order to permit attendance of his wife, who was severely burned. Mrs. Simmering, at first believed fatally injured, is expected to recover without permanent disability. Possibility of the loss of her sight has passed, the attending physician now believes.

Doris Conklin

The funeral of Doris Conklin, killed in the explosion which wrecked a filling station at St. Ansgar while she was in the restroom, was conducted Sunday afternoon at the Community church in Mitchell, IA. She was 17 years old. Surviving her are the parents, Mr. & Mrs. Earl Conklin, a brother and two sisters. She was born at Owasa, Iowa, from which place the family moved a few years ago to Mitchell County.

Transcribed by Deidre Badker, Feb. 2008


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