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Oct. 17, 1983 - Davis Creek Foodland Explodes
By Heath Harrison
April 14, 2013


On Oct. 17, 1983, the Davis Creek Foodland was rocked by a massive explosion, leveling the store, located five miles from Charleston.

Emergency crews on the scene initially believed as many as 70 people were dead in the blast, caused by a natural gas leak.

Witnesses in the store had noticed the smell in the store two hours before the explosion as the gas accumulated, but the manager was told by Columbia Gas that the odor was no reason for concern.

Workers and customers near the front of the store were able to easily escape, but crews expected to find bodies near the back of the building.

Fortunately, all 30 workers at the store and customers were found alive, though 18 received injuries from the blast.

The explosion, its aftermath and investigation put the region in the national spotlight and highlighted the dangers of natural gas leaks.

Columbia Gas was eventually fined $200,000 by the West Virginia Public Service Commission over the blast. The agency found the company had improperly tied off the gas line that caused the explosion.

An IGA store was built on the location in 1986.

This week’s video, courtesy of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History archives, consists of two vintage WCHS clips from the week of the blast. The first is an on-the-scene report from Sarah Oates. The second, featuring Bob Aaron (in his first year at the station), examines the media coverage of the explosion and the misreporting of casualties. (Note Dan Rather in the clip – WCHS was a CBS affiliate at the time)

Remember When: Oct. 17, 1983 - Davis Creek Foodland Explodes

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