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Disaster in Mattoon, Trucks Collide, Fireman Killed
FALSE ALARMS DANGEROUS FOR FIREMEN
During the 1966 period, Charleston firemen had a rash of false alarms called in from EIU dorms. We've read of President Doudna's response to criticism of college students. Charleston's sister city, Mattoon had two stations and several trucks and firemen. On March 29, 1966, a mixture of false alarm, trucks traveling from opposite directions to the same address would add up to one of the worst fire department disasters in Central Illinois history. One fireman would be killed in a terrible collision of two fire engines.
[The Mattoon Journal Gazette, Tuesday, March 29, 1966 tells of the disaster in nearly whole front page coverage]
FIREMAN DIES AS TRUCKS CRASH
eyewitness to the tragedy told the Journal-Gazette that he saw a man fly
out of the cab and land on the pavement. The truck then rolled to a stop
on top of the body. Elder was pinned under the steering wheel of the
truck and was freed after
two local men hack sawed the spokes of the wheel.
Wrecker crews worked feverishly to free both men. elder was removed from
the wreckage at approximately 10:20 A.M. and DeMars immediately
thereafter. According to police and fire department officials, No. 1 was
northbound on 15th Street and No. 2 was eastbound on Broadway. From the
condition of the trucks, it is assumed that the pumper from Fire Station
two driven by DeMars, hit the pumper from Fire Station one driven by
Timm, directly behind the cab. The two engines collided in the middle of
the intersection with No. 2 engine rolling over. It stopped on the
northeast curb of the intersection. No. 1 engine struck six parked
automobiles on the north side of Broadway. Both fire trucks were
described by city officials as "total losses." Mayor Morgan F. Phipps
called an emergency city council meeting for 1:30 P.M. the day of the
crash to determine what action was needed to meet the crisis.
Charleston Fire Department sent a truck and one
man to Mattoon to help cover the city in case of a fire. Champaign and
Effingham also sent trucks. The Civil Defense negotiated the borrowing
of two fire trucks from the Chicago area.