Portales, NM Home Fire Kills Five, June 1982

OFFICIALS PROBING FATAL EXPLOSION.

Portales (AP) -- Fire officials have started probing the charred wreckage of a home destroyed in a fire and explosion that killed five people -- four of them children -- in this eastern New Mexico community.
The victims of the predawn explosion and fire Monday included a Portales woman, her three grandchildren and another child.
Killed were MICHELLE LOVON PARKEY, 5; KENDRA LYNN PARKEY, 4; CORRINE LEAH PARKEY, 3, whose parents live near Silver City; their grandmother, WILLIE MADELL JONES, 52, and a fourth child, HONEY CONLAN, 5, of Albuquerque.
MRS. JONES' husband, DAVID W. JONES, 63, survived the explosion and fire.
He was hospitalized in critical condition at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. Jones is the deputy tax assessor in Roosevelt County and former president of First National Bank of Portales.
Authorities at the Albuquerque Hospital said JONES suffered second and third degree burns over 33 percent of his body.
A hospital spokeswoman said JONES was burned on his back, leg, arms and hands and suffered fractured ribs and a broken collar bone.
MRS. JONES and her three grandchildren were found in a bedroom on the south side of the three-bedroom house beneath bedsprings and bedclothing, authotities said.
The explosion and fire, which occurred about 3:20 a.m., Monday, shot flames 60 feet into the air, Portales fire officials said.
Edrie Hargis, 73, who lives across the street from the Jones home, said she happened to be awake at the time of the blast.
"I heard the explosion and it jarred the wall of my house enough to where a plate fell off the rack in my dining room," she said. "I thought it was an explosion in my house."
"I looked out the window and the whole house across the street was on fire," Mrs. Hargis said.
Lloyd Hatch, manager of Gas Company of New Mexico's office in Portales, said his crew was called out a month ago when a contractor digging a ditch along the curb disturbed a natural gas line entering the Jones home.
A Gas Co. crew on Monday was digging up a three-inch gas main that runs across the street from the Jones home.

Roswell Daily Record New Mexico 1982-06-29