Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, June 28, 2002
Tank explosion trial jurors give $9 m to families
By JENNIFER GALVAN
PECOS, Friday, June 28, 2002 -- A 143rd District Court jury in
Pecos found in favor of the families of two men, who sued an
energy company and a roustabout service over the deaths of the men
in an oil tank explosion near Pyote last year, awarding the families
a $9 million settlement.
The families of Noman Pallanes and Gilberto U. Urias won the judgement
against Chi Energy, Inc., Chi Operating Inc. and Garland Pumping and Roustabout
Services Inc., following a trial that lasted nearly two weeks.
The suit was filed after Pallanes, 32 and Urias, 27, were killed when
the tank they were working on off FM 2355, 10 miles northwest of Pyote, exploded
on April 6, 2001.
A third man, Isais Baeza, had walked away from the tank to get a tool
before the explosion occurred. The work was being done under severe high
wind conditions that day outside the tank structure.
Wind gusts in the Pecos area reached as high as 62 mph the day the accident
occurred, and blowing dust created zero visibility conditions in a number
of areas around the Trans-Pecos, downing power lines and blowing several
trucks off the road.
According to a press release from Ward County Sheriff's Department at
the time of the accident, the explosion occurred at about 3:15 p.m., on April
9. "The investigation revealed that these two persons had been up on top
of a storage tank using a cutting torch, the tank exploded knocking the two
persons from atop the tank," the press release said.
The two men reportedly told others that they had planned to quit welding
on the tank due to the high winds, but then opted to continue through the
afternoon. A spark from one of the welding torches was believed to have set
off gas inside the tank.
The men were changing out some fittings on the tank battery, located at
a new well site, when the explosion occurred. Jurors found the companies
liable, with Chi Energy, Inc. being assigned the largest responsibility for
"There are three parties involved," attornery for the families, Bill Weinacht
said. "Because there is a Chi Energy and a Chi Operations the jury decided
to view them as one. So Chi is responsible for 70%, Garland Pumping and Roustabout
15% and Petroplex Equipment 15% of the negligence. However, Petroplex is
an agent of Chi."
Weinacht said that he was not surprised with the verdict of that the jury
came back with.
"I think that it is fair considering the loss of the families," Weinacht
said. "The jury listened to all the evidence given to them."
The total amount of $9 million was distributed among the families of Pallanes
and Urias. Pallanes' wife and children received $5 million and Urias' wife
and daughter received $3 million. Weinacht said another $1 million was divided
between the parents of the deceased.
"I do not like to say what may happen but normally there is an appeal,"
Weinacht said. "Usually a company will appeal when there is an excessive
amount of millions involved."
Chi Energy's operational office in Maryland today could not say as of
press time whether or not an appeal to the case would be filed.
Carter named new PHS head football coach
By JON FULBRIGHT
PECOS, Friday, June 28, 2002 -- A Pecos native who served as a junior high
school coach here in the 1980s was named the new head football coach
for the Pecos Eagles on Thursday.
School board members selected Fred Carter, who grew up in Pecos and coached
for six years at Zavala Middle School before moving to the El Paso area,
as the new head coach during a special meeting of the board at the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah
ISD Technology Center.
In the same meeting, board members also voted to move Austin Elementary
principal Victor Tarin to Crockett Middle School, where he will serve in
the same capacity for the district's seventh and eighth grade students.
Carter was hired at a salary of $52,000 following an interview on Wednesday
with school administrators and P-B-T athletic director Bubba Williams. He
said Carter was interviewed along with two other candidates, current Pecos
Eagle assistant football coach Brian Gibson, and Stan Caffee, offensive co-coordinator
at El Paso Socorro High School.
Carter will be Pecos' fifth head football coach in 10 years, after the
Eagles' program had only two coaches the previous 23 years, in Jerry Milsapps
and Daylon Whitehurst. Carter replaces Gary Grubbs, who resigned two weeks
ago to accept the head coach and athletic director's position at Eldorado
High School. Felix Urias, Mike Belew and Dan Swaim are the other head football
coaches the Eagles have had since Whitehurst resigned following the end of
the 1992 football season.
"Coach Carter is on jury duty right now," Williams said following the
special meeting. "As soon as they let him off jury duty he'll be here." He
added that should be no later than July 10.
"I'm real pleased," Carter said from his El Paso home Thursday night.
"This is the second time I had applied for the position, so I'm real pleased
they gave me the nod."
Carter said he applied for the job in 1999, when Grubbs was moved up from
assistant to head football coach after the resignation of Swaim. Carter ended
up that season serving as defensive ends coach and head track coach at San
Elizario High School, when that team won the District 2-4A football title.
Carter has spent most of the past 15 years in the El Paso area. After
serving as Zavala Middle School coach from 1979-85, he spent two years at
Fort Hancock High School, winning a six-man state football title in 1986.
He then served two years on the staff of current Midland Lee head football
coach John Parchman at Socorro High School, then moved over to the new El
Paso Mountain View High School, where he served five seasons as varsity receivers
Carter then went to another of Pecos' former district rivals, Fabens,
where he served as offensive co-coordinator, and spent one season after that
as head football coach and athletic director at Tornillo High School. His
only time outside of the El Paso area was in the mid-1990s, when he worked
for the Ector County ISD in Odessa.
"I got an opportunity to go to Hood Ninth Grade School there, where I
was program co-coordinator for two years," he said. After failing to get
the PHS football job in 1998, Carter then went to San Elizario, and for the
past year has been at East Montana Middle School, in the Clint ISD.
Carter's mother, Daisy Roquemore, is a former Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school
board member, and he said his daughter Lauren, already went to school this
past year at Pecos High School. "She played tennis there for coach (Mike)
Ortiz," he said.
As far as his new position, Carter said he plans to meet with the coaching
staff when he arrives in Pecos. "There are a couple of coaches on the staff
that I coached in junior high, so I think we'll get along pretty well," he
Carter added that with the beginning of pre-season workouts less than
six weeks away, he doesn't plan to make changes to the system already set
up by Grubbs.
"I think it's too late to change anything really. Plus coach Grubbs ran
the type of offense that's what I like, so I'll keep things the same," he
said, adding that he also likes to run the same type of defense the Eagles
have been using in recent years.
Carter's appointment, and the move of Tarin to the Crockett Middle School
job at a salary of $56,501 annually, were among several personnel moves made
by the school board following a closed session on Thursday.
Resignations were accepted from Austin Elementary Assistant Principal
Cynthia Armbruster; Pecos High School special education teacher/coach Charlie
Bunch; Bessie Haynes Elementary teacher Eva Garcia; Crockett Middle School
reading teacher/coach Jose Gonzales and Austin Elementary special ed teacher
The board also accepted the retirement of Crockett Middle School history
teacher Ken Garlitz, reassigned PHS English teacher/coach Tammy Walls to
the position of special ed teacher/coach at the high school, and hired Gaylon
B. Doan as PHS history teacher/coach; Frances Glenn as PHS English teacher
and Edwina Ybarra as language arts teacher at Zavala Middle School. Doan
has 17 years teaching experience, Glenn 12 years and Ybarra is on her first
Following the action on personnel, the board then held a video workshop
with other schools in Region 18 on the Financial Integrity Rating System
of Texas, which is designed to identify school districts in financial trouble.
David Cavett of the Region 18 Service Center in Midland, said the new
system is for all school districts in Texas and requires districts to be
graded based on a series of subjects, six of which a district much pass in
order to avoid a substandard rating.
Cavett said a test of the new system done in 2000 showed 874 school district
would have received "superior" ratings, 90 "above standard," 5 "standard"
and 71 "substandard." The Texas Education Agency will keep records on paper
for the new system in the upcoming school year, and will begin publishing
districts' financial standing on the Internet beginning with the 2003-2004
"Open door" policy debated during meeting
By LEIA HOLLAND
PECOS, Friday, June 28, 2002 -- A debate occurred over who authorized the
installation of the locked doors at City Hall during the public comments
portion of regular Town of Pecos City Council meeting Thursday night.
Meeting in the council chambers, Mayor Dot Stafford voiced her opinion
of the doors, which originally were locked and had dark tinted glass when
they were put in to separate the front area of City Hall from city offices
and the chambers area.
She said that even though the doors are no longer tinted or locked she
still felt like they were not at all inviting and asked if they could be
"I think there is a very cold atmosphere when you walk in," she said.
The doors were installed in June of last year and have been a cause for
controversy ever since.
Stafford inquired as to whom made the original decision to install the
City Manager Carlos Yerena said the action decided by the council. However,
Council member Johnny Terrazas disputed that statement.
"It was an administrative decision," he said.
Terrazas said that the administration decided that it would be safer for
the city employees to have the doors installed as well as helping traffic
"At the time it was a building maintenance decision," he said.
Yerena also stated that the doors served as a safety precaution for the
"The purpose of the doors was to instill a sense of security to the staff,"
Terrazas further explained that Yerena and Finance Director George Bejarano
had noticed a problem with citizens just walking into individual offices.
When the doors were first installed it became policy to have every person
announced and buzzed into the staff offices.
Stafford informed Yerena that she understood the reasons but believed
that a sense of security could be felt in other ways, not by the doors.
"That's what office doors are for," she said.
Stafford said that City Hall is a public building and should be open to
"I feel like it's a city building and it's owned by the taxpayers," she
This topic will be further discussed and voted on as to whether or not
the doors should come down at the next Council meeting.
In actions taken on Thursday, the council appointed Terrazas and West
Texas National Bank President John Grant to the Pecos Economic Development
Corporation during last night's meeting.
The council heard recommendations for appointments to the PEDC since two
positions were open.
Stafford said that the council voted on the recommendations and decided
on Terrazas and Grant, both of whom expressed an interest in serving on the
The council also approved a two- percent increase in rates for Duncan
Disposal contract with the stipulation that the increase would not go into
effect until October, which is the beginning of the next fiscal year.
Jack Burns, general manager for Duncan Disposal, was present at the meeting
and gave the council an update on what his company is doing to better serve
He said that they are starting to institute a program to educate local
residents as to what items Duncan can pick up and what they can't.
In order to do that, Duncan is publishing advertisements in the Pecos
Enterprise in both English and Spanish as well as provided flyers to the
city, who will attach them to the next water bills.
He also informed the council that they have already moved an answering
machine to the transfer station, located south of Pecos on Hwy 17, so people
would be able to reach someone at all times.
"We'll do whatever it takes to increase awareness of what can and can't
be picked up," he said.
The council informed Burns that the increase would go into effect in October,
but they would like to see a better consistency in the alley pick-ups.
They also brought to Burns' attention that many trash containers in the
city have deteriorated and do not have lids.
They asked Burns if Duncan would either fix or replace those containers.
"We'll come out here and work on the containers," Burns said. "We'll
get to work on it as fast as we can."
The council approved Accountant Dan Painter to perform the 2001-02 city
audit as well as the offers to purchase land on Third and Oak Streets.
The council approved Arturo Hinojos' bid of $530 for property on 910 E.
Third Street and Moses A. Quiroz' bid of $2,500 for property at 1019 S. Oak
In other business the council approved the monthly tax reports, the accounts
payable and the minutes of the previous meeting.
Pageant, "Night" kick off Rodeo Week events
PECOS, Friday, June 28, 2002 -- West of the Pecos Rodeo Week events get
underway tonight, with the annual Golden Girl of the Old West and Little
Miss Cantaloupe Pageants, at the Pecos High School auditorium, to be followed
by the Night in Old Pecos celebration, Saturday night downtown on Oak Street.
Tonight's show at the Pecos High School auditorium will feature nine Golden
Girl candidates and 13 girls seeking the title of Little Miss Cantaloupe.
Other information on the pageant is in Section B of today's Enterprise.
Festival Committee Chairperson Debbie Thomas said that there are still
a few available booth spaces downtown, but the committee is also hoping for
some more kid-related activities in the park area next to the Judge Roy Bean
Saloon, in order to draw more families to the festival.
"We could probably take four more (booths)," she said, "But we could definitely
take some kids' activities in the park if someone worked to do it."
Currently, face painting, `cantaloupe bowling' and tattoos are among the
activities planned for children on Saturday. "They may also have a little
fishing game and the Class of 2003 will be doing several activities for the
kids," Thomas said.
The festival is set to begin at 6 p.m., on Saturday in the 100 block of
Oak Street. Other activities scheduled include the Cake Walk, sponsored by
the Catholic Daughters, and the Dunking Booth, hosted by the Rodeo Committee.
The Lion's Club will also be running their train through the downtown area
for kids and parents to ride on, and a miniature Ferris wheel will also be
set up during the festival.
For those who have dreams of stardom in their eyes a karaoke machine will
be available from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., provided by P & M.
DJ Bully Matta will provide musical entertainment on Oak Street throughout
A local band, Rim Fire, will provide a variety of country music in Windmill
Square from 9 p.m., to midnight, when the festival ends.
Thomas also said that the Pecos Prancers would be performing a short dance
for the audience sometime during the night in the square. The nominees for
Golden Girl and Little Miss Cantaloupe will also perform their production
numbers from tonight's pageant.
"The Windmill Square Players will make an appearance as well," she said.
A total of 33 food, novelty and retail booths are scheduled to be set
up along Oak Street. Booth prices vary on the number of booths needed and
if electricity is required.
Single booths (12' x 12') are available with electricity for $100 and
without electricity for $85.
Double booths (24' x 12') are available with electricity for $140 and
without electricity for $125.
"Anyone wishing to sponsor a booth needs to contact the Chamber of Commerce,"
Events will continue through next Saturday, the final night of the West
of the Pecos Rodeo. Slack competition for this year's rodeo gets underway
at 7:30 a.m. on Monday at the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena.
Chaparral Village offered as holiday site for fireworks
PECOS, Friday, June 28, 2002 -- Bob Crouch has invited Pecos citizens
to use a clearing across the road from the Chaparral Village to shoot fireworks
over the July 4th holidays.
Crouch, whose property lies in Ward County, just east of the Pecos River
on Busines I-20, said that he does not know of any fireworks ban in Ward
In the past, local citizens have used the county-owned Martinez Field
as a safe place to shoot fireworks, but Reeves County Commissioners on Monday
banned fireworks on county property.
City ordinances ban fireworks inside the city limits.
PECOS, Friday, June 28, 2002 -- High Thursday 95. Low this morning 70.
Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms. Lows
near 70. Southeast winds 5 to 15 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with
isolated thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 90s. Southeast winds 10 to 15
mph. Saturday night: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms.
Lows near 70. Sunday: Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms. Highs
in the upper 90s. Monday: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of thunderstorms.
Lows near 70. Highs in the 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 2002 by Pecos Enterprise