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Federal Investigators at the Scene of Deadly Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion in New MexicoAired August 21, 2000 - 2:11 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Federal investigators are at the scene today of that horrific natural gas pipeline explosion in New Mexico. The blast killed 10 people and it punctured a huge hole in the desert.
Here is CNN's Jim Hill.
JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Investigators in New Mexico continue looking for clues to the deadly natural gas explosion that one likened to a giant flame thrower that engulfed a group of weekend campers.
JOHN BLADERSTOM, NEW MEXICO STATE POLICE: The evidence out there at the scene indicates it was horrendously hot, it incinerated everything in its path.
HILL: The intense heat and fireball early Saturday morning melted the campers' tents and sleeping bags, charred their automobiles, and was seen by people as far away as Carlsbad to the north.
JOE CARTWRIGHT, WITNESS: We thought it was a large house fire relatively close to Carlsbad, but it must have been so large for us to have seen it because it was about 25 miles away.
HILL: Authorities say six of the campers died at the scene along the Pecos River; six others were flown by helicopter to a burn center in Lubbock, Texas, some 150 miles away. Four of them died Saturday evening.
Officials say, half the fatalities were children, among them, six-month-old twin girls and their 22-month-old sister.
Authorities say all of the victims were members of two families fishing and camping along the river. Investigators say the underground gas pipeline ruptured 200 yards east of the makeshift camp and ignited. The resulting blast ripped a whole in the hard-scrabble ground 20 feet deep, 85 feet long and 25 feet wide.
(on camera): This is open rangeland. The nearest homes are 10 to 20 miles away. So it was a cruel act of fate that anyone was in the area when the gas main broke.
(voice-over): The line is operated by El Paso Natural Gas Company, which says the line had been inspected on the ground and by air during the past year.
JOHN SOMERHOLDER, PIPELINE GROUP PRESIDENT: We saw no indication that it was third-party damage or foul play, it does appear that the pipeline ruptured underground.
HILL: Remote as the area is, observers say a number of signs warn of the natural gas pipeline.
HILL: Now the force of that blast, the intense heat obliterated a lot of the evidence at the scene. So authorities, both from the National Transportation Safety Board and from El Paso Natural Gas, say it's possible they may never know exactly what caused the rupture or what ignited the natural gas.
Meanwhile, in Lubbock, Texas, doctors continue fighting for the lives of the two people, the only two people to survive, a man with burns over 60 percent of his body and his daughter-in-law with burns over 20 percent of her body. Both of them remain in critical condition.
I am Jim Hill, CNN, reporting from Carlsbad, New Mexico.
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