Odessa, TX Gas Pipeline Explosion, Mar 1983


Odessa (AP) -- Five people were missing and presumed dead after a drill pierced a natural gas pipeline and touched off an exploson Tuesday that destroyed two trailer homes and injured at least five other people, officials said.
Ector County Sheriff's Captain David Saunders said four members of a family of five were in one of the trailer homes at the time of the explosion. They, along with one man on the drilling crew, are presumed dead, he said.
The fire, which shot 500 feet into the night sky 10 miles west of this West Texas city, was still burning nearly six hours after the 7:30 p.m. explosion, Saunders said.
A nearby resident said the flames "cremated" the family's trailer. Four of the injured lived in the other trailer, officials said.
Saunders said firefighters and deputies who could only get as close as 100 yards to the flames described seeing at least three bodies there.
Officials said that another man may be trapped inside a pickup truck close to the fire, and a fifth person who tried to run from the flames was overcome.
"We think that we can see possibly three bodies just at the perimeter of the fire," Saunders said.
"But it will be at least several more hours before we know for sure. The gas is (shut) off, but it will continue to burn for several more hours."
He said a sheriff's department helicopter flew near the fire and instrumentation on board the craft measured the flames height at 600 feet.
"If there was anybody in that trailer I know for sure there's no way they made it," said Rusty Glover, a witness. Glover said he saw one man who was burned "from the waist up."
Two people, including one member of the two-man drilling crew, were taken to the burn unit at Lubbock General Hospital in critical condition, said Laverne Mann, nursing supervisor at Odessa Medical Center Hospital.
Glover said the explosion sounded like "lightning and thunder." He said the as supply in the eight-inch pipeline would probably feed the fire "all night."
The explosion was touched off at 7:30 p.m. by a crew drilling fence post holes, he said. At 10 p.m. the fire was still burning out of control, officials said.
Ms. Mann identified four of the injured people as ALVARADO PENA, 44, his wife GLORIA, 39, son ALVARADO, JR., 13, and son GEORGE, 10.
PENA and GEORGE PENA were in stable condition with second-degree burns, MRS. PENA was transferred to Lubbock in critical condition with second and third-degree burns and ALVARADO PENA, JR., was treated and released, she said.
A 42-year-old man, who was not identified, was also transferred to the Lubbock hospital with second and third degree burns over 90 percent of his body.
Odessa is located in the heart of the oil-rich Permian Basin.

Paris News Texas 1983-03-16



Odessa (AP) -- Authorities have identified the charred bodies of a mother, her three young children and a workman who were found after a natural gas explosion incinerated two nearby trailer homes and shot flames 600 feet into the air.
Investigators found the five bodies after the blaze was put out Wednesday morning, 12 hours after the accident, said Ector County Sheriff's Deputy Bailey Roberts.
Workmen drilling fence post holes accidently punctured an eight-inch pipeline Tuesday night, sparking the fire, authorities said.
The bodes were identified as MARIA GUITERREZ, 41; her three children, CELESTE, 7, CHRISTIANA, 9, and ELIZABETH, 13; and MANUEL CHAVEZ, age unknown, of Odessa, who had been drilling at the time of the blast.
SANTIAGO GUITERREZ, the 42-year-old husband of MARIA GUITERREZ, was hospitalized in Lubbock in critical condition with second and third degre burns over 90 percent of his body.
GLORIA PENA, 39, was also hospitalized in Lubbock General Hospital and was listed in serious conditon with second and third degree burns.
Her husband, 44 year old ALVARO, and his son, 10 year old GEORGE, were listed in stable condition in Odessa Medical Center Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Sarah Mancha.

Evening Journal Lubbock Texas 1983-03-17