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10 Killed as Natural Gas Line Explodes

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From Associated Press

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

The victims, five of them children, were members of at least two southeastern New Mexico families who were camping along the Pecos River about 200 to 300 yards from where the explosion occurred, said state police Capt. John Balderston.

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.”

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Near the river, investigators found sleeping bags and tents melted by the heat, Balderston said. “The only reason we could tell it was a tent was the geometric design of the poles,” he said.

The pipeline was 8 to 15 feet underground at the rupture point, El Paso Natural Gas Co. spokeswoman Norma Dunn said. The rupture occurred about 500 feet east of the river, approximately 20 to 30 miles south of Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico.

“It is an absolute mystery right now as to why that blew,” Balderston said.

The explosion left a large crater, which Balderston estimated was 86feet long, about 46 feet wide and 20 feet deep. The fire was visible from Carlsbad.

“We saw a large ball of flames,” Balderston said. “The fire department was able to find six people in the river, walking west of the incident.”

Six of the victims were taken to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas, about 160 miles from Carlsbad. Four died there Saturday evening. The other two were in critical condition. “It’s going to be nip and tuck for the next 24 hours,” spokeswoman Kim Davis said. “It’s very grave.”

Among those killed was Roy Lee Heady, 20, of Carlsbad, N.M., and his daughters, 22-month-old Kelsy and 6-month-old twins Timber and Tamber, said Richard Heady, the girls’ grandfather. The girls’ mother, Amy Heady, 18, also died.

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A 5-year-old who had burns on 80% of her body was pronounced dead on arrival at Shriners Hospital in Galveston, Texas, where she was airlifted from Lubbock.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a six-member crew to investigate.

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