Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Monday, August 21, 2000
Pecos River pipeline blast leaves 10 dead
From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, August 21, 2000 - The cause of a pipeline blast on the Pecos
River just north of Red Bluff Lake that killed 10 New Mexico campers may
not be known until sometime next year, National Transportation Safety Board
officials said today.
The 10, all adults and children from the Carlsbad, Loving and Artesia,
N.M. areas, were camping at a site along the river, two miles north of
the Texas-New Mexico state line, when the explosion occurred about 5:45
a.m. CDT on Saturday.
The explosion on the Pecos River just before dawn swept flames down
the river's banks and through tents where two families had been camping.
Five children were among those killed.
The only survivors, a man and his daughter-in-law, were in critical
condition Monday at a Lubbock hospital.
Officials described the ruptured pipeline as a massive flame-thrower
that showered burning fuel on the victims. The explosion generated heat
so intense that sand melted into glass and concrete turned to powder, a
federal investigator said.
The explosion was at first mistaken for a range fire when the blaze
was called in to Reeves County emergency personnel shortly before 6 a.m.
The Pecos Volunteer Fire Department was called out to the scene of the
blast, but was called back to town about half an hour later.
"We responded with two units, but we didn't quite make it there, we
were called back, because it was across the state line," said Fire Chief
National Transportation Safety Board Investigator John Hammerschmidt
said it likely would take several months to determine what caused the rupture
in the 30-inch-diameter pipe.
"We'll be looking for any areas of human error that might have occurred
or even organizational error," he said.
NTSB official Keith Holloway said this morning the explosion occurred
"about two or three miles inside the New Mexico state line," near the area
where the Delaware River merges with the Pecos River.
Holloway said six NTSB investigators have been sent to the site, and
a report could take "nine months to a year" to complete.
NTSB investigators found at least three sections of the pipe that had
been blown from the ground. The explosion, at a point about 6 feet underground,
carved out a crater 86 feet long, 46 feet wide and 20 feet deep.
"There is no indication it was third-party damage or foul play," said
John Somerhalder, president of the pipeline group for El Paso Energy Co.
"This was a very major tragedy."
Pena stated that the Pecos fire units came within about 30 miles from
the scene and could see the flames on the northeast side of U.S 285.
"We could see the smoke and flames from where we were, but we were called
back," said Pena.
Pena said at first the dispatcher didn't know exactly what was going
on, because a passing motorist was reporting the incident. "They were trying
to get a hold of someone in that county, but they didn't what the incident
was at first," he said. "They called me at home at about 5:55 a.m. and
we quickly responded."
Pena responded to the incident with two units and about 12 individuals.
"We were ready to help, but then they said they had found some people from
those surrounding counties," said Pena.
Pena and the Pecos group traveled about 20 miles and were within 30
miles of the incident. "From where we were we could see all the smoke and
it was really big," he said. "It looked really bad."
"We got to the other side of the cutoff of Mentone, but we weren't even
close and already we could see the flames and smoke," he said.
The victims were members of two extended families from Carlsbad, Artesia
and Loving, all in southeastern New Mexico, who had been camping along
the river in an unmarked but popular camping site for fishermen, police
Some had been fishing along the river's banks, their lanterns set up
to light their way, officials said. Others had been asleep. Officials said
they would have had no chance to escape the flash of fire that caught them
between the river and the ruptured gas line.
Six people died at the scene and three died Saturday night at University
Medical Center in Lubbock. A 5-year-old girl died late Saturday en route
by air ambulance to Shriners Hospital in Galveston, Texas.
Those who died at Lubbock were Roy Lee Heady, 20, wife Amy, 18, of Artesia,
and Glenda Sumler, 47, of Loving. Kirsten Sumler, 5, was pronounced dead
on arrival in Galveston. She was Glenda Sumler's granddaughter.
The Headys' three girls, 22-month-old Kelsey and 6-month-old twins Timber
and Tamber, died in the explosion. Also killed at the campsite were Terry
Smith, 23, son, Dustin, 3, and father-in-law Don Sumler.
Bobby Smith, 43, and daughter-in-law, Amanda Smith, 25, of Carlsbad,
survived. Amanda Smith, Terry Smith's wife, is Kirsten Sumler's mother.
State police Capt. John Balderston said the campsite was not in a developed
camping area but has been popular with local residents because it provides
easy access to the Pecos River.
"They were there to enjoy the shade the bridge offered," Balderston
One survivor recalled being awakened by shouts to find herself and everything
around her on fire, said Balderston. She jumped in the river, and then
found she couldn't get back to the children because of the flames.
The fire burned 40 minutes to an hour before dying out when fuel was
cut off to the area.
Near the river's edge, investigators found sleeping bags and melted
geometric shapes that once were tents. Three charred pickup trucks looked
as though they had taken a direct hit from a bomb.
"This is a tragedy that words don't describe," Gov. Gary Johnson said
as he toured the blast site Sunday. "This is grief unimaginable."
There are "concerns with pipeline safety, obviously," Johnson said,
and there may be a regulatory role for the state, but it's too soon to
say what action might be taken. He said investigators first must determine
what went wrong.
Hammerschmidt said Sunday that the NTSB already has a proposal on pipeline
safety before Congress. "We think improvements can be made in pipeline
safety in general," he said.
The pipeline was installed in 1950. It was last checked Aug. 2, company
spokeswoman Norma Dunn said.
The pipeline explosion was the second major blast in the area in the
past nine months. In November 1999 two truck drivers were injured, one
critically, when their vehicles were blown off the highway when a liquid
propane transmission line operated by Rio Grande Pipeline Co., exploded
on U.S. 62-180, just outside Salt Flat, about 110 miles northwest of Pecos
and 60 miles west of Saturday's explosion site. The explosion also engulfed
a pipeline operated by Chevron USA, which supplies crude oil to the company's
El Paso refinery.
According to the El Paso Times, a pocket of gas that had built up from
the leaking pipeline was ignited when two westbound school buses carrying
about 20 children passed by, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper
said at the scene. The children were not harmed, but the two trucks driving
behind the buses were engulfed in flames, he said.
Police seeking cause of death of Pecos man
By LEIA HOLLAND
PECOS, August 21, 2000 - Police are still waiting word on the cause
of death of a Pecos man, who died this weekend after being transported
from his home to the Reeves County Hospital.
Pecos Police Officers were dispatched to 1104 South Elm Street at 8:44
p.m., on Friday, August 18 for assistance.
When officers arrived they found Jesus Hinojos, Jr., 41; unconscious
then immediately called for ambulance assistance.
"The officers conducted CPR until the ambulance crew arrived and transported
him to the hospital," Police Chief Clay McKinney said.
Hinojos was transported to the hospital where, according to emergency
room staff, he was admitted and later died.
The family declined to comment on his death at this time.
McKinney said the police is unaware of the cause of death but will investigate
the incident further.
Hinojos was a lifelong resident of Pecos and was a United States Army
Veteran as well as a member of the Assembly of God Church.
Services for Hinojos will be held at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 22, at the
Pecos Funeral Home Chapel with Matt Williamson officiating. Burial will
be in Barstow Cemetery.
Counties may be added to bee quarantine
By ROSIE FLORES
PECOS, August 21, 2000 - A lot of West Texas counties are already under
quarantine for Africanized bees, however, Reeves and Loving counties are
not included in that quarantine.
"The way they are moving, though, we might be included in that quarantine
soon," said Reeves County Extension Agent Terry Holder.
An elderly woman was killed by a swarm of bees last month in Carlsbad,
N.M., 85 miles north of Pecos, while an elderly couple was injured two
weeks ago on the west side of Pecos when they were stung by a swarm of
bees. But Holder said as of now, it hasn't been determined if they were
the regular honey bees or "Africanized Bees."
"The only way you know the difference is by sending them off," said
Holder. "And I don't know if anybody did."
Holder said while many West Texas counties are under quarantine, Reeves
and Loving are the only ones that are not. "That could change though,"
said Holder. "There are 121 counties for Africanized bees and they may
be here before long."
Under quarantine rules, bees cannot be transported from one county to
another for use in pollinating crops except under specific guidelines.
Currently, bees used for pollination in Coyanosa or Barstow could not be
transported to pollinate fields around Pecos, because both those towns
are in counties under the quarantine.
"They're the same species as honeybees, a different race," said District
Entomologist Mark Muegge, of the Africanized bees. He added they are no
more poisonous or venomous, but they're dangerous.
"But regular honey bees can be dangerous also," said Muegge.
The Africanized bees are more aggressive, it doesn't take long to set
them off and their sting is worse. "They sting much quicker and travel
in more numbers," said Muegge.
Africanized bees will also chase further, according to Muegge.
With Africanized bees, you have to be more precautious, because a swarm
can be found in a tree or will nest anywhere in the home.
"If you get up close to it and disturb their nest they will attack viciously,"
said Mugge. "And it doesn't take much to set them off," he said.
Vibrations, such as that of a lawnmower, will also set them off, according
These bees also travel frequently. "When you see a swarm it's because
they have left the original nest, because it's gotten too big and the queen
bee has taken them to form a new nest," he said.
To get rid of a "nest," or swarm, a qualified pest control operator
is required. "We generally tell people to get a qualified pest control
operator, but if they want to do it themselves, they can, but they need
to take precautions," he said.
Muegge said they aren't required to get rid of these nests, but can
advise people on how to.
"We always suggest to take all the precautions they can and make sure
and follow all the rules," said Muegge. "And never try to do it alone,"
Some things to remember said Muegge, is that Africanized and honeybees
look the same, so stay away from all bees.
Africanized bees will build a nest almost anywhere; if you know of any
wild bee nests, have the nest removed; Africanized bees defend a wide area
around their home, so you may not even see the hive before bees start buzzing
around you; large numbers of Africanized bees likely to sting when they
sense someone is too near their nest; if you get stung or hear bees buzzing,
run away fast and get inside a house or car, if there is no shelter, run
through bushes or high weeds and a honey bee will leave its stinger in
your skin if it stings you. Get the stinger out by raking your fingernail
across it. Don't pinch or pull the stinger out. Put ice on a sting to reduce
The Africanized honeybee, popularly known as the "killer bee," moved
into South Texas and the southern United States in the mid-1990s. Scientists
are not certain how far north the bee will spread, but they do know that
it will cause problems wherever it resides in large numbers.
This insect, which has been migrating from South America since the 1950's,
looks just like a domestic honey bee, but it is not nearly as good natured.
"I don't really know how they can tell the difference, because you do
need to send them off to a specialist," said Holder. "They look just exactly
alike," he said.
The domestic bee has lived in harmony with human beings for hundreds
of years. It has been bred for gentleness and good honey production.
By contrast, the Africanized bee is a "wild" bee that is not comfortable
being around people or animals. Any colony of bees will defend its hive,
but Africanized bees do so with gusto. These bees are more likely to sense
a threat at greater distances, become more upset with less reason, and
sting in much greater numbers.
"That couple in Pecos that had the bees in their home, something must
have set them off, such as a dog or movement of some kind," said Muegge.
The Africanized bee's "killer" reputation is greatly exaggerated, but
it does have some basis in fact. In isolated instances, people and animals
have been stung to death. Most often, the person who died was not able
to get away from the bees quickly. Animal losses have occurred for the
same reasons. Pets and livestock were tied up or penned when they encountered
However, Africanized bees do not roam in giant swarms looking for victims
to attack. Like most animals, these bees react defensively only when they
Because honeybees provide 80 percent of the pollination required by
agricultural crops, a reduction in the number of beekeepers could lead
to reduced yields in melons and other commodities as well as a decline
in honey production.
Beekeepers are working closely with state and federal agencies to minimize
the impacts of the Africanized bee.
The best protection against the Africanized bee is to understand how
it behaves and react accordingly. Bees "swarm" to establish new hives in
the spring and fall. Bees are most active then. You may find bees setting
up housekeeping where you live literally overnight. Individual bees gathering
pollen on flowers or masses of bees clinging together in swarms generally
will not bother you. However, bees are more likely to be defensive after
they have established a colony and started raising young.
Hospital board to study budget at meeting
PECOS, August 21, 2000 - Reeves County Hospital Board members will discuss
the 2000 Budget for the hospital during a hearing as part of their regular
meeting set for 6 p.m., Tuesday in the classroom at the hospital.
The Board will also discuss the 2000 Operating and Capital budget as
well at the calculation of the effective and rollback tax rate.
They will set a tax rate at the meeting as well.
Other topics of discussion will be a joint conference committee report
and the monthly tax collection and the financial reports.
The Board will get an update on the Main Street Project and the Hospital
District Exemptions and approve bill payments.
William Meshel, MD will be considered, by the Board, for appointment
to the consulting staff and clinical privileges in Emergency Medicine.
Brawley Beauchamp, 83, of Pecos, died Friday, Aug. 18, 2000, at Medical
Center Hospital in Odessa.
Graveside services were held at 10 a.m., today, at Mt. Evergreen Cemetery
with Rev. Greer Willis officiating.
He was born Nov. 27, 1916, in Pecos, was retired from the Texas Department
of Transportation, was a United States Veteran who served in the Navy in
World War II, a lifetime Pecos native, and a Baptist. He had been a member
of the Pecos Volunteer Fire Department for many years.
He was preceded in death by one son, Bob Beauchamp in 1998.
Survivors include his wife, Deenie Beauchamp of Pecos and a host of
nieces and nephews.
Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Alvaro V. Bejarano
Alvaro V. Bejarano, 74, died Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2000, at his resident
in Hatch, N.M.
Mass was held at 10 a.m., today, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church
in Saragosa with burial in Saragosa Cemetery.
He was born Feb. 10, 1926, in Ruidosa, was farm laborer, longtime New
Mexico resident and a Catholic.
Survivors include three brothers, Benino Bejarano of Dallas, Eugenio
Bejarano of Pecos and Merehildo Bejarano of Balmorhea; six sisters, Maria
Lydia Alvidrez and Pabla Alvidrez of Seminole, Belia Rodriguez of Saragosa,
Simona Rocha of Carlsbad, N.M., Josefa Madril of Odessa and Amalia Bejarano
Martinez Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Jesse Hinojos, Jr.
Jesse Evaro Hinojos, Jr., 41, of Pecos, died Friday, Aug. 18, 2000, at
Reeves County Hospital.
Services will be held at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 22, at the Pecos Funeral
Home Chapel with Matt Williamson officiating. Burial will be in Barstow
He was born July 27, 1959, in Pecos, was a United States Army veteran,
a laborer, a lifetime Pecos resident and a member of the Assembly of God
Survivors include his wife, Beatrice B. Hinojos of Pecos; two sons,
Jayson and Jeremy Hinojos of Pecos; four daughters, Marissa and Nikki Hinojos
of Glendale, Ariz., Jennifer and Breanna Hinojos of Pecos; his mother Pilar
E. Garza of Tempe, Ariz., his father, Jesse Hinojos of Pecos; two brothers,
Armando Hinojos of Pecos and Raul Hinojos of Phoenix, Ariz.; four sisters,
Gloria Guebara of Pecos, Beatriz Delgado of Rialto, Calif., Elida Hinojos
of Phoenix, Ariz. and Michelle Hinojos of Phoenix, Ariz.
Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
L.E. "Karo" Northcutt, 46, of Wink, died Sunday, Aug. 20, 2000, at Medical
Center Hospital in Odessa.
Services will be at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 22, at the First United Methodist
Church in Kermit, with Reverend Beth Harrington officiating. Burial will
be in Kermit Cemetery.
He was born in Wink, was an oil rig supervisor for Key Energy, and was
a Methodist and a lifetime resident of Wink.
He was preceded in death by his father Charlie Northcutt in 1996.
Survivors include his wife, Bobbie Jo Northcutt of Wink; his mother,
Betty Northcutt of Wink; one son, Brandon Northcutt of Wink; one daughter,
Kristy Carrell of Monahans; four brothers, Curtiss Northcutt of Andrews,
Robert Northcutt of San Angelo, James Northcutt of Odessa, Kevin Northcutt
of Midland and five grandchildren.
Cooper Funeral Chapel of Kermit is in charge of arrangements.
Charles Eugene Sullivan, 60, of Pecos, died Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000, at
Odessa Medical Center Hospital.
Graveside services were held at 2 p.m., today, at Philfer Cemetery in
He was born Oct. 26, 1939, in Tennessee, had lived in Pecos since 1975,
was a retired truck driver for East Texas Motor Freight and was a Methodist.
Survivors include his wife, Juanita Sullivan of Pecos; one daughter,
Terri Long of Hernando, Miss.; one son, Patrick Sullivan of Olive Branch,
Miss.; one stepdaughter, of Catherine McCreary of Springtown; one stepson,
Daniel Lewis of Austin; one sister, Helen Sullivan of Jackson, Tenn. and
The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations may be made to
the American Cancer Society.
Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
PECOS, August 21, 2000 - High Sunday 103. Low this morning 63. Forecast
for tonight: Tonight: Clear skies. Low in the upper 60s. Southeast wind
5-10 mph. Tuesday: Sunny. High 97-100. Southeast wind 10-15 mph. Tuesday
night: Mostly clear. Low in the upper 60s. Wednesday: Partly cloudy and
fair at night. Low 65-70. High in the mid to upper 90s.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 2000 by Pecos Enterprise