60 Years Ago, Rensselaer County Town Almost Destroyed by Fireball
Props to CBS 6 and Liz Bishop for this piece commemorating a devastating day in Capital Region history.
On July 25, 1962 a tanker truck carrying 7000 gallons of propane went off the road in the small Rensselaer County town of Berlin, causing a massive explosion that killed at least ten people and destroyed several homes.
The tanker truck was heading down a very steep roadway, Plank Road, in the town. The driver was a substitute who had lost his way when he began heading down the steep road. It's not known exactly what happened, perhaps his brakes gave out or he couldn't navigate the hill, but he lost control and the truck went barreling down the road at a very high rate of speed.
Sharon Klein, the Berlin town Historian summed remembers the moment it happened:
It was a beautiful, bright, sunny afternoon very peaceful. Then all of the sudden it was like all hell broke loose.
The tanker went off the road into a small neighborhood and exploded. It was a chaotic scene where people ran from their homes on fire - some jumping into a nearby creek, but did not survive.
In a 1982 interview with CBS 6, Ethel Feathers recounts saving her husband that day:
I took off my sweater and I throwed it over him and when he went to feel his arm, it all came off and it was an awful burn.
Nine residents of the town and the driver of the truck were killed in the disaster. Today a stone memorial stands at the front of the Berlin Community Cemetery commemorating the day and the ten victims.