Explosive Truck Leads to Deadly Disaster in Wyoming Town

Casper, Wyoming – A fateful Sunday drive on May 16, 1921, took a tragic turn for a 30-year-old man from Casper and a hitchhiker as they traveled from Casper towards a Thermopolis storage warehouse. Nelson A. Glass was driving a white truck owned by the Independent Torpedo Co., carrying highly explosive nitroglycerine in the back. The hazardous material was manufactured at a Casper facility and used by the oil industry.

In the early days of oil field exploration, nitroglycerine was crucial for stimulating well production. It was transported in trucks with extreme caution due to its sensitivity and danger. The Independent Torpedo Co. took safety measures by storing the cans in heavily padded boxes to minimize the risk of accidents.

Despite facing challenges earlier during the drive when Glass got stuck at a bridge, a rancher came to his rescue using his horse team. However, tragedy struck when the truck exploded after hitting a pothole or bump in the road just 200 yards from a gas station in Bonneville. The blast left a massive hole, destroying the truck and its occupants, scattering debris far and wide.

The explosion not only caused significant damage to nearly all 75 buildings in the small community but also sent shockwaves through nearby home foundations, cracking them. Luckily, no other residents were injured in the catastrophic event. The aftermath of the explosion revealed the destructive power of the blast, with heavier pieces of the truck found a quarter mile away and only a left hand with a plain gold ring identified as Glass’s remains.

The Independent Torpedo Co. worked closely with oil companies to provide nitroglycerine and trained personnel known as “shooters” to use the explosive for well stimulation. Despite being a common practice at the time, transporting nitroglycerine was a risky endeavor that required more attention and better regulation, according to a Casper Daily Tribune editorial.

Nitroglycerine had various applications, from stimulating well production to extinguishing oil wellhead fires. However, advancements in technology and safety measures have led the oil field industry to adopt alternative methods, such as pressurized water and fracking techniques, over explosives for well stimulation.

The truck explosion in Bonneville in 1921 served as a stark reminder of the dangers associated with transporting and handling nitroglycerine. The incident highlighted the need for stricter safety protocols and oversight in the transportation of hazardous materials to prevent future tragedies. Tragically, the explosion in Bonneville claimed the lives of Glass and the hitchhiker, leaving a devastated community in its wake.

Overall, the devastating consequences of the explosion underscored the importance of safety regulations and vigilance when dealing with hazardous materials, emphasizing the need for continuous improvement in ensuring the well-being of workers and the surrounding community.