PORTALES, N.M. -- An explosion and fire ripped through the fashionable home of a county official Monday, killing his wife and four girls. He survived with critical burns.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately known, although witnesses speculated it may have been touched off by a natural gas leak.
The 3:30 a.m. explosion leveled the home of Roosevelt County Tax Assessor David W. Jones, 63. The explosion in the east-central New Mexico town near the Texas stateline could be heard four miles away.
'I heard the explosion and I got up and looked out the window and the whole house was on fire,' said neighbor Edna Hargis. 'It was just completely in flames. Evidently, it was a gas explosion and it has completely burned (the house) up.'
The dead were identified as Jones wife, Madell, age unknown; her granddaughters, Corrie, 3; Kendra Lynn, 4, and Michelle Parkey, 5, all of Albuquerque, and Honey Conlan, 5, whose address was unavailable.
Jones, 63, suffered a broken collarbone, fractured ribs, cuts and second- and third-degree burns on his back, legs, arms and hands. He was listed in critical condition, with burns over 33 percent of his body, at the University of New Mexico's Burn and Trauma Unit in Albuquerque.
'Evidently, it blew Mr. Jones out through the window,' Mrs. Hargis said. Evidently, he must have been sleeping in the bedroom on the west side of the house because he was blown out through the window. I understand he's in real bad condition.'
Three of the girls were the daughters of Betty and Bill Parkey, Jones's daughter and son-in-law. The fourth child was the daughter of a woman to whom Jones's son, Bill, is engaged.