BROWNFIELD, Texas (KCBD) - July marks 60 years since the Goodpasture, Inc. grain elevator exploded, killing six people, forever changing the lives of the citizens of Brownfield.
“I just remember when we came back, people just acted like they were in a daze,” Rita Muldrow said. “It was just the enormity of it for a small town.”
Muldrow is the daughter of Grady Goodpasture, the owner of that elevator. They were out of town in Florida when the elevator exploded on the evening of July 19, 1960.
“They called him and he kept talking to them,” Muldrow said. “They panicked because without him being there, how do you know what to do when there’s people in danger?”
One of those people in danger was Paul Akins, who was an employee working on top of the structure.
“We were outside playing and all of a sudden we heard this really big boom and the sky just turned black with smoke,” Carolyn Taylor, Akins daughter, said. “We knew something had happened.”
Taylor was six years old at the time.
“His clothes caught on fire and so he jumped from the top of the little building,” Taylor said. “He was burned so severely that his bones were sticking out. They had to identify him by a cigarette lighter in his pocket.”
The explosion was devastating, but it also brought out the best in the community of Brownfield. Don Ethington volunteered to board a helicopter and maneuver a rope to pull a 17-year-old to safety.
“He later won the Carnegie [Medal] for heroism and he deserved it,” Muldrow said. “He totally risks his own life and he didn’t even know the young man.”
The tragedy also brought out the best from Grady Goodpasture, a man already beloved and still beloved by Brownfield.
“Mr. Goodpasture was wonderful,” Taylor said. “He stepped up. I can remember my mother talking about him coming in and sitting with her at night right after it happened. I had two smaller sisters. There were three of us. He kept us in his thoughts. He was a very good man.”