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Fire sets off propane explosions; worked dies of heart attack

November 11, 1997

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ A series of violent explosions shook a propane storage facility on the city’s south side today, and a worker suffered a fatal heart attack as he ran to fight the blaze.

The pre-dawn explosions shot fireballs hundreds of feet into the air above Thermogas, a propane distribution center. The blasts and fire destroyed three trucks, each loaded with 100 propane cylinders, and threatened to ignite two 33,000-gallon storage tanks filled with liquefied propane, fire department spokesman Rick Batza said.

Firefighters trained their hoses on the fire and the two large tanks, preventing the tanks from exploding. A smaller propane storage tank exploded, sending flames and debris 300 to 400 feet into the air.

The tank ``was just pealed back like a piece of fruit,″ Batza said.

The cause of the fire, which forced the evacuation of nearby homes, was not immediately clear.

``We heard the explosion and we weren’t sure what it was. We got up and looked out the window, and it was blowing up again,″ said Theresa Spurlock, who lives nearby.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control within an hour.

The worker who died was identified as Kenneth Skaggs, 59. Another employee was filing a small propane tank when a fire started. Skaggs, working inside, collapsed as he ran to help with a fire extinguisher, authorities said.

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