March 18 marks 79th anniversary of New London School Explosion

New London collageToday is the 78th anniversary of the New London School explosion, caused by a leak of unodorized pipeline residue gas from an oil pipeline.

The explosion occurred on this date between 3:05 and 3:20 pm, presumable initiated by an electric hand sander’s spark.

The New London School explosion occurred on March 18, 1937, when a natural gas leak caused an explosion, destroying the London School of New London, Texas,[1] a community in Rusk County previously known as “London”. The disaster killed more than 295 students and teachers, making it the deadliest school disaster in American history. As of 2014, the event is the third deadliest disaster in the history of Texas, after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, and the 1947 Texas City Disaster.

Immediately following the disaster, the Texas Legislature met in emergency session and mandated the use of mercaptans so the natural gas could be detected by odor.

Shortly after the disaster, the Texas Legislature met in emergency session and enacted the Engineering Registration Act (now rewritten as the Texas Engineering Practice Act). Public pressure was on the government to regulate the practice of engineering due to the faulty installation of the natural gas connection; Carolyn Jones, a nine year old survivor, spoke to the Texas Legislature about the importance of safety in schools. The use of the title “engineer” in Texas remains legally restricted to those who have been professionally certified by the state to practice engineering.

For a complete discussion of the disaster, follow this link to a Wikipedia article on the explosion.

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