I’m not sure what made me think of it, but while working the other night, it suddenly hit me that February 18th was the anniversary date of a Burlington Northern derailment and subsequent rupture of a rail car of anhydrous ammonia in my home town of Crete, Nebraska. On February 18, 1969, I was a junior in high school. Crete had, and still has, a volunteer fire department. In 1969, firemen were alerted to fire & rescue calls by the city’s fire whistle. About 6:30 that morning, the fire whistle went off, waking most of the still-sleeping residents of the town of 4,500. I remember waking up, then starting to go back to sleep when the fire whistle started going off again. It ended, then started up again. Wondering what was going on, I started to get up when Mom came to my bedroom door and said there had been a train wreck and a tank of anhydrous ammonia had ruptured.
I don’t remember there being Emergency Management back then. Growing up in a farming community, I knew a little about the hazards of anhydrous ammonia, but not a lot. What I mostly knew was that people needed to stay away from it.
Dad was a Police Officer with the City of Crete at that time, as was my uncle. Dad worked the previous evening and did not end up going back to work until later that day. My uncle had also worked the night before and was waiting for a new mobile home to be delivered to a lot in Crete. The lot happened to be across the highway from the accident scene. That ended up being put on hold for several days. A Nebraska National Guard unit from Lincoln was activated for traffic and crowd control.
The temperature was extremely cold that morning. The derailment happened just east of the Blue River. Officials later said that this ultimately helped dissipate the deadly fumes, but six people died as a result of breathing the deadly fumes. Three other people died as a result of illegally riding on the freight train that derailed. Fifty three people were injured as a result of being exposed to the deadly cloud of ammonia. About 500 people were evacuated from their homes, including my grandparents. Several of my classmates lived close to the accident scene. One lost his father as a result of stepping out onto the porch and being overcome by the anhydrous ammonia.
As I remember, the threat from the anhydrous ammonia was pretty much over by the end of the day. The clean-up from the derailment took longer. Two of the people that died owned a dry cleaning business just to the west of the derailment site. That business never re-opened and the building and their residence next door remained as a stark reminder of the events of the day until they were recently demolished.
I did a Google search on this disaster but was not able to find a lot on it. It was mostly government statistics and figures. Maybe because the internet is pretty new, the information on a 41-year old disaster is not available. If anybody is reading this that has any memories of this to share, please add to the comments at the end of this entry.
Another big event in Crete shortly after the derailment was the Crete Cardinals basketball team winning the State Class B Championship. I tried to find articles on the path to that championship but was not able to locate anything on that, either. All I found was a listing of state basketball championships that showed Crete beating Cozad for the title and that the Cardinals’ final record was 17-3. I remember thinking that should have been the Cardinals’ second title in as many years. During the previous season, Schuyler won the championship. During the season, the Cardinals were the only team to beat Schuyler. If I remember correctly, one of the state newspapers still rated Crete over Schuyler after the state Tournament, which the Cardinals were not able to go to due to a loss to Auburn in the district finals.
It’s hard to believe that these things happened 41 years ago. I guess it truly means you’re getting old when you remember some things that happened years ago but can’t remember what you did with the car keys.
Every year, 60,000 law enforcement officers are assaulted on the job, resulting in about 16,000 injuries, said Craig Floyd, chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Floyd didn't have statistics on how many of those assaults and injuries involve female officers compared with males. There have been 18,661 male officers killed in the line of duty since 1792, and 237 women have been killed on the job since 1916.
On Wednesday evening, February 17th, Pittsburgh, PA Police Officer Janine Triolo was involved in a fight for her life, In this case, the good guy(girl) won the fight.
Officer Triolo was in the area of a reported armed robbery when she contacted 20-yr old Ryan Davis of Lawrenceville, the suspect in the robbery. Officer Triolo began to handcuff Davis and had a cuff on one of Davis’ wrists when he began to resist. Davis hit Officer Triolo in the face several times with his fist and shoved a gun into Officer Triolo’s armpit and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed and Davis attempted to gain control of Officer Triolo’s service weapon. Officer Triolo managed to maintain control of her weapon, draw it from her holster, and fire at Davis, striking him in the chest. Davis, who was 6’1” and weighed about 200 lbs, died at the scene.
The assault left Officer Triolo with a broken eye socket, a broken nose and broken left hand a concussion and a detached retina. Officer Triolo, 28, is a 3 year veteran of the Department. "She was literally fighting for her life. The suspect had already robbed someone, and we believe he was willing to kill her if it meant he would get away," said Officer Dan O'Hara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1.
"She stood her ground and did her job. She is a hero."
Officer Triolo, still in an undisclosed hospital on February 20th, is on paid leave while the incident is investigated, which is normal in police-involved shootings. The Allegheny County District Attorney's office will oversee the investigation.
It’s nice to see that the bad guy will never be able to rob or assault anybody again. If Davis’ gun had not jammed, we most certainly would be adding Officer Triolo’s name to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Get well soon, Officer Triola, and job well done!
The winter weather in our area continues. It started raining about 1 AM on Friday. By 1:30 AM the rain was freezing on parked cars and the street was getting slippery. I went home shortly after 2 AM and when I got up about 9:30 AM we got about 3” or 4” of wet, heavy snow. Just about the time it looked like we were getting rid of some snow, we got more to replace it. It was snowing again Saturday morning, but not staying on the pavement. I just don’t think this winter will EVER end!
I was able to spend some time in the garage working on the race car. I’m really happy that I didn’t have to completely rebuild a car like we did last winter. Even with the wood burner going full blast in the garage, it was just about 55 degrees inside. If I ever had it to do over, I would put up a wood frame garage and insulate it conventionally as soon as possible. We put up a metal building and are now finding out that it will cost more to insulate it than the building cost! I guess we’ll just keep gathering wood and keep the fire going as well as we can.
I gave up turning wrenches in early 1983. It was a time when manufacturers were going to a lot more electronics and mechanics were having to buy metric wrenches. Mechanics were spending a lot of money to purchase more electronic testing equipment as well as metric wrenches and sockets to supplement their SAE tools. I would be lucky today to be able to change the oil and filter on most new cars today.
Believe it or not, working on race cars is a lot easier than working on today’s passenger cars and trucks. There are very few electronics to worry about, and most everything is located in a position that is at least kind of easy to work on. Most race cars today are built from the ground up on a bare frame, and components have been located in such a way that they can be worked on.
At the Cool McCool 100 race last fall -(it seems like it was at least 2 years ago), I ran into some problems with my brakes. On Saturday evening, I found that my rear brakes were locking up. On Sunday morning, we unloaded the car in the motel parking lot and Jeremy eventually found a pinched brake line. We got that taken care of, and I thought my problems were over.
Once the season was over and we got the car in the garage, we put it on jack stands to work on it better. I found that the front brakes had quite a drag on them, too. I tinkered on them on and off, looking for a problem. I even went so far as to replace the right front caliper and spindle, thinking that maybe the piston was froze in the caliper or the spindle was bent, causing the caliper to be cocked and applying unequal pressure to the rotor. Each time I would put it back together, the wheel would spin freely until I applied the brake, then there would be a lot of drag on the brakes.
I finally opened the reservoir on the master cylinders and found that each had some kind of small round black plastic thing in the bottom of the reservoir. These apparently fit into an orifice in the bottom of the master cylinder that allows brake fluid to enter the brake lines. Looking closer at these, I saw they had an arrow on them with the word “front” printed on it. The arrow was not pointing quite to the front. When I made sure the arrow was pointing straight to the front, the brakes began working correctly.
In all of the other master cylinders I’ve worked with, I’ve never seen these in the bottom. These are a Willwood brand, which is commonly used in circle track racing. I’m guessing that these are an older design.
With the weather, it is now very possible that the cars in this area will be ready to race before Mother Nature is ready to race.
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