Taken from the September 11, 1908 issue of the Fairbury Blade, Fairbury, Illinois
Hurls Heavy Iron In All Directions and is Heard Two Miles. John Hehl The Only Man Injured
The traction engine belonging to George and John Hehl exploded with terrific force yesterday about one o'clock at the farm of William Mundell, six miles south of Fairbury. The engine was literally torn to pieces and John Hehl who was running it at the time was badly injured. One remarkable thing about the accident was that nobody was killed.
The Hehl brothers and their force had been engaged in hulling clover in the neighborhood and had just pulled into Mr. Mundell's yard. About a dozen men, women and children were standing around watching operations and the engine had scarcely stopped when the air was rent by a deafening explosion, the force of which knocked everyone present down; shattered the windows in Mr. Mundell's house, and hurled heavy pieces of iron in every direction.
When the men who had been standing around recovered themselves their first thought was of John Hehl who had been standing on the footboard of the engine. Where he had been standing was a twisted mass of iron and steel, the whole end of the boiler being torn away, leaving the flues exposed and the steam pouring out. The engine had been partly turned around and reared on end and the tongue of the water tank was broken off. Mr. Hehl was found in a semi-conscious condition under the wrecked engine. He was taken to the house and physicians were summoned from both Fairbury and Corpse. Examination showed that he had suffered a few scalp wounds; his lips and chin had been cut by flying pieces and several of his teeth had been knocked out. His knee and body were badly bruised. He had also been scalded some by the steam but it is believed he will recover.
No one can view the wreck with-out wondering how anyone standing near escaped. The front wheels of the engine were twisted out of all semblance of wheels and thrown about fifty feet in front of the engine. Both front and back of the engine were blown off and thrown a distance of fifty to a hundred feet away and heavy pieces of iron were blown in all directions. One piece of the boiler weighing about 800 pounds was torn out and blown high in the air and passing over a large cottonwood tree fell in the road about half a block distant from the engine. A cat sitting in the yard about fifty feet from the engine was killed by a wheel and one chicken was killed. These were the only fatalities.
Flying pieces of iron tore a number of large holes in the corn crib and buildings, but George Hehl, who was standing just beside the engine suffered but a slight scalp wound.
The engine was an old one bought of Russel Brothers of Peoria, but the boiler was thought to be safe. It is said there was plenty of water in the boiler at the time of the explosion and no one seems to know what caused the trouble. It is certainly remarkable that no one was killed considering the number of people who were near by.