New Mexico pipeline explosion kills 10 campers

An underground natural gas pipeline exploded, killing 10 people who had been camping nearby. Two others were in critical condition.

An underground natural gas pipeline exploded, killing 10 people who had been camping nearby. Two others were in critical condition.

The victims, five of them children, were camping along the Pecos River about 200 to 300 yards (meters) from where the explosion occurred Saturday southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico, state police Capt. John Balderston said.

Balderston said a woman who survived recalled being awakened by shouts about a fire.

"She stands up and discovers she's on fire and jumps in the river," Balderston said, "then returns to get her children - and can't, because it's so intense."

Near the river, investigators found sleeping bags and tents melted by the heat, Balderston said.

The pipeline was 8 feet (2.4 meters) to 15 feet (4.5 meters) underground at the rupture point, El Paso Natural Gas Co. spokeswoman Norma Dunn said. The rupture occurred about 500 feet (150 meters) east of the river, around 20 miles (32 kilometers) to 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico.

The cause of the explosion was unclear. The explosion could have been ignited by anything from a spark from striking rocks to someone lighting a cigarette or coal for a barbecue, Dunn said.

The explosion left a massive 86-foot-long (25-meter-long), 20-foot-deep (6-meter-deep) crater. Its flames were visible 20 miles (32 kilometers) away.

Six victims were taken to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas, about 160 miles (257 kilometers) from Carlsbad. Four died there Saturday evening.

The rest were in critical condition, hospital spokeswoman Kim Davis said.

Among those killed was Roylee and Amy Heady of Carlsbad, New Mexico, and their daughters, said Richard Heady, the girls' grandfather.

A 5-year-old with burns covering 80 percent of her body was declared dead on arrival, Davis said.

The explosion was under federal investigation.

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