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Blast-Torn Pipeline To Undergo Tests

August 24, 2000

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) _ A gas line that exploded near a campsite, killing 11 campers and critically burning another, must undergo a series of safety tests before it is put back into service, the federal government has ordered.

The order issued by the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety on Wednesday requires the pipeline operated by El Paso Natural Gas Co. _ as well as two neighboring lines _ to pass pressure tests in addition to X-ray and ultrasound structural testing. Investigators found corrosion in one section of pipe that blew Saturday.

Gas company spokeswoman Norma Dunn declined immediate comment.

Jim Hall, NTSB chairman, and Kelley Coyner, head of the Research and Special Programs Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation, planned to spend Thursday in southeastern New Mexico and in El Paso, Texas, as investigators sought causes of the explosion.

The only survivor, 25-year-old Amanda Smith, remained in critical but stable condition Thursday at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas. She was one of a dozen people from two families who had camped near the Pecos River, about 500 feet from the pipeline.

It will be months before the agency releases a report on the cause of the blast, NTSB officials have said.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday labeled the explosion the deadliest pipeline accident in the continental United States in nearly 25 years.

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