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Explosion Rocks Elementary School On Day Children Are Excused

September 24, 1985

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Students at an elementary school were excused from classes today following an explosion that injured two custodians and heavily damaged a library.

A natural gas leak was blamed for the blast and fire Monday that caused an estimated $175,000 damage to Rollingwood Elementary School, District Fire Chief Jerry Catlett said.

No children were in the school at the time of the 2:29 p.m. explosion because classes in the district had been canceled for teacher meetings. The district’s school children had been given free passes for the day to the state fair in Oklahoma City, and the 23 teachers were at other schools.

The school has an enrollment of 481.

Lee Mason, secretary to Putnam City School Superintendent Ralph Downs, said the blast occurred as a maintenance man was on the roof lighting the pilot light on the school’s heating unit.

It damaged one wall of the media center building, which houses the school library and nurse’s office, caused school officials and firefighters feared the building might collapse.

Jim Hamilton, Putnam City deputy school superintendent, said he believed classes would resume Wednesday at Rollingwood although the damaged area would have to be closed off.

Catlett said he believed there was a gas leak that built up in a small enclosed office in the building and then exploded when the workers tried to light the furnace.

He praised the school’s policy of trying to schedule annual furnace maintenance for days when children are not in the building.

Kalin Cline, a school maintenance worker, was near the furnace when the explosion occurred but was not hurt.

But two custodians who were working in the library were injured. The extent of their injuries was not known, but the two 62-year-old women managed to walk away from the building, officials said.

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