Explosion heard for miles

Wanda English Burnett


An explosion at the Versailles Laughery Valley Ag Co-op shop left the immediate area and surrounding community wondering what had produced the noise. The thick rolling black smoke could be seen for miles on Friday, November 19 about 1 p.m.

Lois Warfield saw the explosion unfold as she sat in her home just across from the co-op located on US 421 just South of Versailles.

“I heard a noise and the sides of the building just bulged and everything flew up in the air,” Lois told the Osgood Journal. She saw the employees running from the building falling to the graveled parking area in front of the building. “I just knew someone was hurt,” she said.

It all seemed to happen about the same time, according to Lois, who was a first hand witness to the scene. “I think I’ll see that for a long time,” she said.

“It shook this house,” her husband, Tom, noted. He said the house “rumbled” as several shots similar to gunfire were heard following the initial blast.

Later the Warfields would find out that the explosion was accidental. But, at first, they said many thoughts went through their heads. They’ve lived in the house adjacent to the co-op for as many years as its been there and say they’ve always known there could be risks.

Versailles Fire Chief Ben Sieverding said a propane tank was accidentally knocked over with the top coming loose, allowing the propane to escape. The shop building was completely destroyed and the office sustained heavy damage.
Sieverding said no one was injured in the blast and felt that was an “act of God. We’re really fortunate here today,” he told the Osgood Journal.

The Versailles firemen were assisted by three additional fire companies - New Marion, Osgood and Friendship - with more than 40 firemen responding. Their goal was to keep the fire from spreading to area building and a huge propane tank located in close proximity to the explosion.

The black, thick smoke could be seen for miles and even had school children at South Ripley Elementary wondering what had happened. Buses had to be re-routed for students in the area for their home-bound commute. Officers from the Indiana State Police and Ripley County Sheriff's Office re-directed traffic around the scene until it was safe for motorists to pass through.

Ripley County Emergency Management Agency Director Wayne Peace was on the scene and told the Osgood Journal there was no chemical run off from the explosion. Peace said the fire was so hot it melted the office chairs and even the antenna. He said the blast happened in a north east pattern. Peace echoed the fire chief’s comment about the employees being fortunate.

“Are my parents okay?” was the first thought that raced through Amy Zoller’s mind. She rushed home to find her parents, Tom and Lois Warfield, in good shape, though a little shaken. Tom admitted, “It was scary,” especially when they didn’t know what had happened.

Even though one building was completely destroyed and the office heavily damaged, employees at the co-op know they are more than a little “lucky” to have escaped with their lives.

ABOVE: Over 40 firemen from four departments were on the scene at the Versailles Laughery Valley Ag Co-op Friday afternoon for several hours after an initial explosion leveled the above building. In the immediate background is a large propane tank firemen were successful in keeping from igniting. RIGHT: Lois Warfield, saw the whole thing as she sat at her window seat inside her home located just across from the co-op on US 421. She was talking with her son on the phone at the time and says she'll see that scene in her head for a long time to come.