Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Benge & Pratt Store Fire & Explosion, 28 March 1914, Upper Hutt #3


Evening Post, 30 March 1914, p. 7

The massive explosion that ripped through Benge & Pratt's store at 12:10 am on  29 March 1914, killed five men instantly, a further three were to die of their injuries later, and another 6 or so were injured. 

Just prior to the explosion, Constable Mahoney realized that the fire had taken such hold that it was now time to abandon rescue efforts and he declared it was time to go in and get the boys out. As he entered the building, it was the last time he was seen alive.

A bystander observed that when the explosion occurred, the roof of the store opened up like the petals of a flower and a spout of flame shot high up into the air with a deafening roar. Those gathered outside were knocked to the ground, stunned. Windows were blown in up to half a mile away, while the post office across the street received the full blast of the explosion. 

A shower of  glass, corrugated iron sheets, heavy verandah posts, and heavy scantlings rained down on the surrounding area. All who were present or who saw the aftermath were amazed that more were not killed or injured.

The explosion was heard in Lower Hutt and Petone, and even as far away as Kaiwarra gorge. 

Three helpers seriously injured by the explosion were rushed by special train down the line to Wellington Hospital, but all ultimately succumbed to their injuries over the following month, raising the final death toll to 8.

Evening Post, 30 March 1914, p. 7

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