CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Portales Fire Department works to clear debris off a women trapped in her home after an explosion damaged the structure of the building.
By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico
An explosion rocked a south Portales neighborhood shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday, resulting in serious injury to an elderly woman, police said.
Police were notified of a loud explosion and a home with major structural damage at 2113 S. Ave. I Place with at least one injured person inside, Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said.
Neighbors said the home belonged to Clytie Calton and that she was injured in the explosion.
Cause of the blast was not immediately known, but police speculated it may have been gas related.
According to former daughter-in-law, Lawanda Calton, Clytie Calton, 91, was taken to Convenant Hospital in Lubbock with a compound fracture to one leg and possible broken ankles.
At 8 p.m. Wednesday she had not heard from family members at the hospital.
“She’s very strong-willed and a strong lady,” Lawanda Calton said. ‘We’re hoping broken bones will be the extent of it.”
Lawanda Calton said her ex-husband and Clytie’s son, Bill Calton, was knocked down in the blast but was not injured. She said Bill Calton told her he was in the utility room checking for the source of a gas smell when the explosion occurred.
Portales High School senior Ky Mitchell, who lives in the neighborhood, said he was the first one on the scene and reported the explosion and told rescue workers that Calton was trapped.
“I was in my house in the living room and I heard a real big explosion, like someone had dropped a bomb on us,” Mitchell said.
He said he went to the house and saw Calton in the debris and called 911. He said she was able to talk to him but appeared dazed.
Mitchell said dispatchers told him to remove debris from her face but not to move her until rescue workers arrived.
Berry said early reports were that two people were at the residence at the time of the explosion, one person outside and a woman inside. The person outside the home was not injured, Berry said.
Berry said the woman was trapped under debris inside the house when crews arrived.
“It took massive efforts by the fire department just to get her out,” Berry said. “There was so much debris, getting her clear and ready to roll was a major effort.”
Police said they evacuated the neighborhood while utilities were shut off to the area of the blast. There were no reports of damage to surrounding homes.
Berry said ambulance crews immediately transported her to Muleshoe, where they were to be met by an Aerocare helicopter that would take her to Lubbock.
Berry said at 7 p.m. investigators were waiting to make sure any possible gas accumulated in the house had dissipated before they began searching the home, which had collapsed walls and major structural damage.
“I don’t want to cause another secondary blast by our moving around here,” Berry said. “Once we go inside, I want to make sure we’re as safe as possible.”
He said a team of building inspectors, fire marshals and police investigators would likely be investigating the cause through the night.