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50 years ago: Deadly explosion rocks Eagle Grove

KCCI Des Moines 2/3/2023 Chad Thompson and Beau Bowman
deadly explosion © Provided by KCCI Des Moines deadly explosion

Fifty years ago, a huge explosion rocked the Wright County town of Eagle Grove.

Fourteen people were killed in the blast near South Commercial and Broadway. It destroyed the Chatterbox Cafe and the Coast-to-Coast Hardware store. One of the victims, Donald Blue, was the son of former Iowa governor, Robert Blue.

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In 1973, people said the explosion could be heard 30 miles away. The event became known as "Black Friday." The tragedy made headlines around the world.

"You don't think about it, and then you get home and you think 'holy mackrel,'" said Daryl Watts on the 50th anniversary of the explosion.

Watts was one of the many who rushed to help in any way they could.

"It's hard to talk about, think about," he said.

Newspaper clippings in the Eagle Grove Historical Museum preserve the heart wrenching emotions everyone in Eagle Grove felt on February 2nd 1973 as they stood where a café, jewelry store, and hardware store once were.

"We heard the boom and it rattled the windows on our house," said Tom Peterson, fire chief at the Eagle Grove Fire Department.

Peterson says he was only 12 years old, but recalls the void the explosion left at the corner of Broadway Street and Commercial Avenue.

"It was pretty much leveled that corner of main street," Peterson said.

Del Kramersmeier owned a pharmacy across the street, and tells KCCI during the explosion, the door knob of the hardware store flew across Broadway, through his window, and landed in the very back of the store.

"Really shocked to see what happened. It was a terrible sight," Kramersmeier said.

He too remembers what was left behind, and what was taken: 14 lives.

A list of names is carved onto the plaque in downtown Eagle Grove. The place where the community came together to rebuild.

" rebuilt our buildings across the street that were leveled and moved on," Kramersmeier said.

Twenty-five years ago, KCCI spoke with residents who felt it when it happened.

"You never get over it and you miss those people every day," one Eagle Grove resident who recalled the devastation said.

Watch the video above to see what an Eagle Grove firefighter said about the deadly explosion.

A dedicated plaque in Eagle Grove honors the people who died that day.

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