By Mannix Porterfield
Families of five men injured fatally when a propane gas leak triggered an explosion that rattled the landscape within a mile of a Little General Store at Ghent six years ago are planning a permanent memorial on the site of the tragic blast.
Already, the families have laid plans to have the huge monument on the property in time for the seventh anniversary of the Jan. 30, 2007, explosion, with permission to do so already given by Little General.
Hazel Burroughs, the widow of Frederick Burroughs, 51, a Raleigh County building inspector and a member of the Ghent Volunteer Fire Department, said the proposed memorial has been sketched by Donald Starr of Beckley, based on ideas generated by the surviving families.
In mind is a stone monument 10 feet high with a base measuring 21 by 54 feet, featuring a cap base and a raised area with a flagstone.
“Each person that was lost will have a 30-inch coin,” Burroughs said Monday. “Families will put whatever they want on the coin to let people who look at the memorial know that person. There will be a column for each, and a column for the survivors.”
Besides Burroughs, the blast killed three others instantly, Craig Lawrence Dorsey II, 24, a Ghent EMT/firefighter, and two Appalachian Heating technicians, Jeffrey Lee Treadway, 21, and Glenn Ray Bennett, 44.
Hazel Burroughs said the memorial also will honor a fifth man who died some time after the explosion, Donnie Caldwell, likewise a member of the Ghent VFD.
“We knew what we wanted, so we had an artist do the rendering,” Burroughs said.
“At first, we were going to do it like cemetery stones. But we had some people talk to us and we wanted it to fit in with the country’s settings. There will be a lot of concrete and stone on the columns and some rose bushes and landscaping done.”
Coleman Custom Building Inc., of Ghent, owned by James Coleman, also a Ghent firefighter, proposed to construct the monument for $73,400. In addition, it is estimated that landscaping and parking for the memorial will add another $20,000 to the cost.
“We are hoping it will be completed by the next anniversary, which is Jan. 30, 2014,” Burroughs said. “That may be a little optimistic.”
Burroughs said she was told by Little General’s attorney that the old tanks will be hauled away from the property this week.
“Once the tanks are removed, we will be able to begin construction,” she said.
So terrific were the blast and shock waves that caused a rumble up to a mile away that some residents initially mistook it for an earthquake. Windows were shattered at Ghent Elementary School and seven homes were damaged when one of two 500-pound above-ground propane gas tanks sprung a leak, triggering the explosion that killed four people instantly and injured five others.
Legislators in session at Charleston went to the scene that afternoon and came away with a universal impression — the area resembled a war zone, with debris scattered over the vicinity.
Burroughs said a special fund has been created to accept donations for the memorial.
Donations may be sent to First Community Bank, Attention: Nancy Poff, 1220 Ritter Drive, Daniels, WV 25832.
“Each of these men are heroes in their own right,” Burroughs said in a flier announcing the memorial. “If it were not for actions they took on that fateful day, it is impossible to determine the casualties that could have occurred.”