Today an official state historical marker was unveiled commemorating the Marshalls Creek Explosion. It is located near the spot where the truck blew up on Route 209 in Middle Smithfield Township. News13’s Nicole Walters has more on the dedication in this report.
Marshalls Creek Vol. Fire Co. Assistant Chief Eugene Berry Sr. says, "The fire company responded as we do every time. Members that morning had no idea of what was going to be, soon to be one of the worst tragedies in the history of the fire service in the United States."
59-years ago today the Marshalls Creek Fire Department responded to fight a truck fire on Route 209 in Middle Smithfield Township. Seconds later the unmarked trailer exploded.
Berry Sr. says, "A crater 40 feet across, 10 feet deep, debris strewn across the road in miles in all directors, houses of windows some five miles away rattling."
Tom MacIntire was eight-years-old and asleep when it occurred. He tells us his house blew up, "I was not in my bedroom anymore, I was in the hallway and I was covered with debris and sticks and plaster was all over me and I couldn’t breathe because it got in my mouth and my eyes, I couldn’t see."
MacIntire was one of the lucky ones. Three volunteer firefighters and three bystanders were killed, 13 others injured. Today they were remembered with a moment of silence and the dedication of an official state historical marker.
The owner of Regina Farms donated the land where it now stands. Ed Regina not only saw the fire from his bedroom window but he lost his younger brother John.
Regina says, "Unbeknownst to me, my brother had gone out of the house before me and he was obviously there when it exploded."
It means a lot to the Regina Family along with the rest of the community to commemorate the tragedy.
Middle Smithfield Township Supervisor Chairperson Annette Atkinson says, "It not just about the disaster and the awful graphic carnage of it, but how people came together to help each other."
This marker will not only serve to remember the lives lost but as an educational tool in preserving a piece of history.
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commissioner Dr. William V. Lewis, Jr. says, "A permanent record that scholars and students in the future will come to. And I hope 50 to 100 years from now, some young person comes up 209, sees the marker and wants to learn more about the people who’s lives were sacrificed here and about the impact this had on not only our state but our nation in terms of transportation safety."
Middle Smithfield Township is forming a community committee to expand the memorial so that what happened will never be forgotten.