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Anniversary Of Historic Train Explosion That Destroyed Town

Anniversary Of Historic Train Explosion That Destroyed Town

CREATED Feb 24, 2014

by Nick Beres

WAVERLY, Tenn. - Thirty-six years ago a train ran off the tracks and nearly destroyed the tiny town of Waverly. The train had brought the area life and the huge explosion from the wreck almost killed it.

Two tankers on the train derailed and exploded on February 22, 1978.

"It happened on a Wednesday and brought first responders, firefighters and police officers to the tracks.  The chief called me in early," said Toad Smith, an officer who worked the wreck.

Smith himself said he almost died in a sea of burning gas.

"You don't see much flame, just smoke," said Smith who suffered severe burns.

Sixteen people lost their lives, including many of Smith's friends. But Smith said things could have been worse. More of the train could have exploded.

There now is a museum along the tracks in the rebuilt town that shows exactly how the historic wreck changed the town.

For some like Smith, they've only just now started talking about what happened.  It's been too hard.

But Smith's learned that "if you talk about it you can handle it."

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