Portales home explosion linked to gas leak

By Karl Terry, Freedom New Mexico

The cause of an explosion that killed a Portales woman has been attributed to a natural gas leak, according to members of her family.

Clytie Calton, 91, died Saturday from injuries from the explosion at her home.

Family members said they were briefed Thursday by an investigator from the state fire marshal’s office along with Portales Fire Department officials.

Mikel Ward, an investigator with the fire marshal’s office who works out of Alamogordo, said his investigation was complete but he declined on Thursday to release the results. He said he expected to issue a press release on the cause late this week or early next week.

Family members said they were told a pocket of gas that had formed under the home due to a leak in a corroded gas line was the source of the explosion.

Family members said investigators speculated that a pilot light could have been the source of ignition, but were unable to say for sure.

“We want people to know about the explosion, and that it was just a terrible accident and the fault rests on no one’s shoulders,” granddaughter Sandy Fields wrote in an e-mail.

“They (investigators) were so kind to continually point out that there was no way anyone could have known, and nothing any of us could have done,” she wrote. “With our family, they were just so grateful that the house wasn’t full of people, and that my father Bill (Calton) was safe.”

Bill Calton was in the home at the time of the explosion. He was thrown backward and covered with debris from the blast but managed to free himself, a family member said.

Family members said the house will be a total loss.

Gary Calton said the roof of the home had been completely lifted up. He pointed out a box of cereal and a phone that had been blown through the ceiling and rested between walls and roof joists where they were trapped when the roof came back down.

“We’ve recovered a lot of treasures,” granddaughter Kim Mann said. “No one’s worried now.”

“The greatest thing about this is we still have our brother,” Gary Calton said, referring to Bill Calton. “We’re still astounded at how he wasn’t hurt.”

Gary Calton said the one thing he learned from the investigation was that people may want to check into venting crawlspaces in homes that don’t have venting.

“If this house had a vent to the crawl space it probably never would have happened,” Gary Calton said.