Lawsuit Filed Over Deadly 2000 Explosion
1 July 2003

USA, N.M, Carlsbad

A group of emergency workers filed a lawsuit Monday against El Paso Natural Gas Co., saying gross misconduct caused an August 2000 pipeline blast that killed 12 people at a family campsite on the Pecos River.

The lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages, contended firefighters and rescue workers suffered physical and emotional pain and were subjected to`horrific traumatizing circumstances'' while fighting the fire and trying to help the victims.

The underground explosion was the deadliest pipeline accident in the continental United States in almost 25 years. The explosion in a corroded 50-year-old pipeline about 350 yards from the campsite left a crater in the ground 86 feet long, 46 feet wide and 20 feet deep.

"El Paso's reckless behavior left 12 people dead and 24 valiant firefighters and rescue workers irrevocably harmed, forced forever to cope with unrelenting images of the gruesome carnage they witnessed and that the company could have and should have prevented," said the plaintiffs' attorney, Robert Schuster.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators determined the explosion was caused by water and other corrosives that pooled in the pipe and slowly ate away at the metal. The corrosion should have been detected by El Paso and the company's failure to monitor corrosion properly should have been discovered by government inspectors, NTSB investigators said.

El Paso said this year it has implemented an aggressive pipeline inspection system and cooperated fully with investigators since the Carlsbad explosion.

An El Paso employee at offices in Colorado Springs said no one was available to comment on the lawsuit, and a call to El Paso Corp., the parent firm in Houston, went unanswered.

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