Glen County, Texas October 25, 2003
It was October 25 when they had the finals in the 2003 bean eating contest. All contestants arrived early in the morning at the newly constructed Glen County fairgrounds coliseum. No one was aware that less than two hours later most of them would be dead. The annual bean eating contest has been taking place since 1966, and aside from a few stomach aches, there had never been any critical incidents or deaths. In past years, the contests had been held at the Glen county fairgrounds barn, which was drafty and often quite cold at this time of year, and whose wooden plank flooring was badly in need of repair. The decision to relocate the contest to the new coliseum was unanimously approved by the contest board.
The contest began at 9am sharp. Contestants began shovelling down pound after pound of the pork & beans. The final beans were consumed about 45 minutes later, when William Sharrey was declared the winner, after breaking the world record by eating 18 lbs 6.32 ounces of Pork and Beans. The runner up, Margaret Trippit, took second place, eating 11 lbs 14.8 ounces of the beans.
Near the end of the contest, the flatulance from all the contestants began accumulating directly on top of the concrete floor, filling the coliseum with the deadly gasses, and leaving a flammable accident just waiting to happen. None of the gas could escape from the building because of the thick house wrap sealing the structure far too tightly for an event of this nature.
At approximately 10:24am. the building exploded and burst into flames, causing the worst disaster to ever occur in Glen County Texas The explosion and fire are under investigation, but authorities say it was not arson. It appears that the tightly sealed building, wrapped in plastic "house wrap" trapped the deadly farts. One severely burned witness said he recalled someone lighting a cigarette in the men's rest room when the blast occurred. Apparently the gasses were ignited lighting at that moment. Fire chief Ronald Fairchild Jr. was quoted saying "the structure acted just like a bottled gas container, and with one spark it became a bomb and fireball". He went on to say "the structure was sealed too air tightly for this event". He further stated "there were over 100 contestants, and at least 1200 lbs of beans were consumed.... what do you expect, they produced a lot of flammable gas, and the result was inevitable".
So far, 117 have been confirmed dead from the blast, 62 are hospitalized, most critically, and at least another hundred persons are missing, which are believed to have simply vaporized during the severe blast. The blast completely destroyed the newly completed coliseum, caused several other nearby fairpark buildings to ignite, and shattered windows in buildings as far as 16 miles away. Additionally, there are beans scattered for miles.
"This is the worst disaster to ever occur in Glen County TX", said one of the few contestants to survive with only minor injuries.
Invesigators are combing through the ruins looking for bodies. Their efforts are being hindered because everything is coated with beans. One fire fighter received a broken arm, after slipping on the slippery coating of bean slime which coats the remaining floor of the structure, and everything else for miles.
President Bush has been notified and local authorities are declaring this a state disaster, and requesting federal aid.
Our news team will keep you updated as more details become available.
Reporter: Cheryl Bradley AP News Service