Star Lake, NM Gas Pipeline Explosion, Mar 1974


Star Lake -- Three members of a Navajo Indian family burned to death today when their pickup truck passed through a cloud of natural gas from a broken pipeline and the gas ignited into a tremendous explosion and fire.
San Juan County Sheriff Dan Sullivan identified the victims of the freak accident as FRANK CAYADITO, 39, his wife, DOROTHY, and their three-year-old son, ANDY, of Pueblo Alto.
Sheriff Sullivan said the family was driving along a Southern Union Gas Co. pipeline right-of-way in an isolated area about 18 miles north of Star Lake when the explosion occurred shortly after 4 a.m.
"We are not sure at this point whether the gas was ignited by heat or sparks from the truck engine or if one of the truck occupants lit a match," he said.
W. E. (Dub) James of Albuquerque, Southern Union vice president, said a rapair crew which went to the scene found the truck near the center of the blazing inferno.
"The repair crew said it was a tremendous fire," Mr. James said. "They said they could see the blaze from 18 miles away."
James said the crew shut the gas flow off at check valves on both sides of the break, and within minutes the fire stopped.
James said that gauges at the Albuquerque end of the Albuquerque-Farmington pipelines detected the pipeline break at 3:45 a.m., which means that the gas was spewing out under pressure for about 25 minutes before the family drove by.
He said the broken portion of the gas line had been closed down by 5:30 a.m. so that workers could get near the victims.
Star Lake is about 30 miles southwest of Cuba, and the gas line break was near the Chaco Canyon area to the west.

Albuquerque Tribune New Mexico 1974-03-15