Disaster in the Downtown: 43 Years Later

A normal day

It was a normal, late May day in 1975 with nearly 100 employees working at the Robin Hood Flour Mill in Davenport, just north of the downtown. 

Many thought it was an earthquake, some thought it was a bomb.

It was felt and heard across the Metro, blowing out windows in the downtown.

At about noon on May 23, an explosion occurred at the flour mill causing portions of the building to collapse.

Chunks of steel and concrete and shattered glass were shot hundreds of yards around the scene of the explosion.

With sirens ringing out through the downtown and a helicopter flying above, the disaster has been called on of the worst in the region.

The cause of destruction

A very simple reason caused for the massive disaster in the downtown: one spark caused the dust in one of the large silos, a capacity of 1.8 million pounds of wheat, giving the explosion and overwhelming force.

Left for dead

Seven people were trapped on the roof of the remaining portion of the mill, two of which had to be rescued by helicopter.

One man, Fred Ryherd, of Hampton, Illinois was still unaccounted for 12 hours after the explosion, and was nearly left for dead.

At about midnight, Fred Ryherd, his skin burned and body buried under concrete, began to scream for help.

The National Guard had to assist via helicopter in the efforts to save Ryherd due to his location height in the mill.

Ryherd was rescued from the building 12 hours after the explosion, but died nine days later due to the severity of his burns. 

Many were rushed to trauma centers across the Metro where area doctors were asked to report.

All together, four were killed and five injured; however, many say that if it weren't for the lunch hour, many more employees would have been in the mill.


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