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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

VIDEO: Watch May 11th, 1976 ammonia truck disaster at Hwy 59 & Loop 610

Right outside the Houston Post building, seven died and nearly 80 hospitalized from ammonia truck crash on the West Loop on May 11th, 1976

On this day in 1976, an ammonia truck crash killed seven people and hospitalized more than 70 people, in Houston at the Southwest Freeway and West Loop interchange.

Above is a story filed by then KHOU 11 reporter Judd Macilvain for CBS News.

News 88.7 KUHF's Dave Fehling recently reported on how this incident helped test the idea of sheltering-in-place.

The accident happened right outside the offices of the Houston Post, which became the new home of the Houston Chronicle in 2016. Former Post editor Mike Read described to Fehling what happened:

“A little after 11 o’clock the whole building shook,” Read said.

Read and dozens of Post employees ran to the windows and realized that while the accident was over on the freeway, a toxic threat was now heading their way.

“There’s a large white cloud beginning to form under the freeway interchange,” Read remembered. “It was rolling across the ground.”

It was cloud of ammonia gas. Quick-thinking building engineers shutoff the air conditioning. Employees headed to the top floor. READ THE REST

Read told Fehling the only Post employees injured were the ones who left the building.

The Chronicle's J.R. Gonzales wrote about this tragedy a few years ago if you want more info.

Jim Bell, who anchored at 88.7 KUHF for many years until retirement, was working at 950 KPRC Radio News the day of the ammonia accident.


"We had reporters all over that story," Bell told "Downtown at Civil Defense, at Bellaire General Hospital and several spots around the accident site. You'll hear KPRC News Director Don Watson on the scene under the freeway interchange gasping for breath in the ammonia fumes. He spent several days in the hospital because of it."

Bell worked for KPRC Radio News from 1969 through 1976.

After I published this post, KTRK abc13 put out its video from the day of the accident.

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