I was reading through the above-referenced section and was a little shocked regarding the comment attached to Wayne Nutting. It reads as if William Schutz killed him! Below is a quote from a knowledgeable source regarding the explosion at Knott’s. I would suggest rewording the comment a bit to be more accurate — Nutting was not “killed” by Schutz. The Schutz family themselves were very active in the community (Mrs. Schutz was PTA president, Chris was ERHS student body president, etc.), and the wording as-is does not seem to be a fair reflection onto their family.
“Mr. Wayne Nutting’s propane fire in his Stanley…Jim Crank writes: “Bill Marsh and I were there the weekend before, and I know what happened. The accident was directly the result of Wayne’s stubbornness and probably his ignorance of how to use propane tanks.
Described as a chain of events.
Wayne had a huge propane tank in the back of his garage property to fire his heat treating furnace.
His Stanley used kerosene for the main burner; but he had a long small diameter propane tank in the floor of the tonneau for the pilot light. The tank was up against the back of the front seat and thus right over the cylinders.
Wayne filled this tank from his big one; but not the right way, I saw this happen, I watched as he did this. He inverted the propane tank and filled it until a solid stream of liquid propane came out of the vent on the pilot tank. THIS is his big mistake. That vent valve has a tube inside the tank that goes down and provides about a 20% gas volume at the top of the tank when it is used in the proper way with the valves on top. It starts spitting liquid propane when the level comes up to the bottom of this tube. Then you are supposed to stop filling. The void is to take care of liquid propane expanding in hot weather.
We went out in the Stanley and I remarked to Wayne that I smelled propane in the rear seat of the car, a lot of it. I opened one rear door to try to let the cloud of propane out of the car after we got back. Wayne got mad and told me that he damn well knew how to use propane and not to mention it again. When we were about to leave, I told him: “Wayne, that pilot tank is venting raw propane out the safety valve because you overfilled it and this was very dangerous. Fran Duveneck and I also use propane for our pilots; but we don’t deliberately overfill the tank like you do.” He didn’t want to hear this for sure and got quite mad that I brought this up again. I told him: “Wayne, this is going to cause an accident, so think about that.” Then we left.
At Knott’s Berry Farm, it was a very hot day and the parade was just creeping along, so there was not even a breeze to dissipate the propane from the tonneau. Not only a hot day; but remember the tank was right over the hot Stanley cylinders. The tank vented again and filled the tonneau with propane. Mrs. Bill Schutz and her two children were in the back seat. She lit a cigarette and the propane in the tonneau blew up. The Nuttings were killed from their burns, Mrs. Schutz was very badly burned and the kids less so. I was told that she could not be seen in public until a lot of skin grafts and other reconstructive surgery was done. Bill Schutz sued the Nutting estate for a lot of money and that is how he got into the vintage car business, from the payment by the insurance company.
When we got home, both Fran and I dumped our propane pilot tanks and went back to using white gas.”
Best regards, Kathy Muller-Carrillo (third generation E.R. resident)