Fire official: Explosion’s cause yet to be determined

Tony Bullocks: CMI staff

Kevin Wilson

An explosion rocked the 1100 block of Prince Street in Clovis on Saturday night, leaving three injured in a blast that was heard and felt for numerous city blocks.

Emergency calls were placed a little after 6:30 p.m. Saturday following what Clovis Fire Department personnel called a “high-pressure explosion” at H2O Express, located on the southwest corner of 12th and Prince streets.

“There was some fire involvement,” said Mike Nolen, battalion chief on scene. “Our first truck knocked it down quickly.”

The injured were taken to Plains Regional Medical Center. One of the three injured was later transported to a Lubbock hospital for treatment of burns.

The conditions of the injured were not known and identities were expected to be released sometime today.

Nolen said he believed two of the injured would likely either be held for observation at PRMC or treated and released. All three victims were standing in the street when the fire department’s rescue team, the first on-scene, arrived, Nolen said.

Nolen said the cause of the explosion was yet to be determined and a state fire marshal was enroute from Santa Fe. He said the cause would likely be determined sometime today and didn’t dismiss the likelihood of either natural gas or refrigerant used to make ice in the plant.

Nolen said it appeared the blast originated in the back of the plant near refrigerant units. It blew materials an estimated 20 to 25 feet to business offices near the front of the plant.

Emergency crews had utilities shut off just to be safe following the incident.

Neighboring residents didn’t see anything, as most were inside during a chilly night. But they all heard it.

“I thought something hit my house,” said Brandon Roberts, watching from the sidewalk next to H2O, “and we live over on Ninth and Ross (two blocks south, one block west).”

Jeff Abernathy lives on the same block, and said it shook his bed, while Naomi Villa-Sierra said, “it sounded like somebody came in and slammed our door.”

Windows were blown out at the business, and the rear roof was curved up from the blast.

But the neighboring H&H tattoo and piercing parlor didn’t appear to have structural damage, though Michael Eschenbauch said the family would probably make some calls Monday to have the foundation checked.

The owners, Greg and Karen Eschenbauch, said some items were knocked off shelves.

“It felt like a dump truck came through our building,” Karen Eschenbauch said. “We got lucky today.”