Investigation of Mexican Gas Truck Explosion to Continue

October 11, 2016

A gas explosion became global news on Thursday January 29th when a routine delivery went devastatingly wrong, leveling a maternity hospital in west Mexico City, instantaneously killing three and injuring many more. Around 7 a.m. on Thursday, a hose burst on a truck supplying gas to the Cuajimalpa Maternal and Children’s Hospital. More than 100 people were inside at the time.1

Those present told reporters they smelled gas and a leak was reported to local firefighters almost immediately. A vapor cloud began to form in the entrance to the emergency room. The gas truck crew began to shout, “Call the firefighters! And tell people to get out!”2 Evacuations began, but soon the ceiling began to collapse. Moments later, witness Teresa Ramirez told CNN, “we saw an explosion that made everything fly into the air.”1 Flames and smoke flew into the sky. The explosion shook the entire neighborhood, throwing those surrounding the building to the ground. The most damage was done to the neonatology, reception and emergency units; more than 70% of the hospital is devastated.1

Hospital workers and new mothers ran and covered their newborns from the flames, many of them barefoot and/or naked. Many were trapped for up to a half hour before being rescued, declaring the scene a “horrible nightmare.” Rescue units emerged from the rubble with babies in their arms as paramedics rushed bloodied victims from the scene on stretchers. Victims were brought to nearby hospitals and most infants were admitted without identification. Some of these infants are currently undergoing DNA testing to determine their identities because many newborns were not wearing ID bracelets.3 The community responded with a tremendous humanitarian effort. People of Mexico City dropped their daily responsibilities to volunteer their time, bringing bottled water and diapers to survivors and victims. There was an hour-long line to donate blood by midmorning on Thursday.2

Latest news raised the death toll by two nurses and two infants were also killed by the blast.4 More than 70 injuries have been documented, 15 in danger of fatality. More than 20 of the 73 injuries were to newborns.3 Hospital officials have published statements declaring that everyone signed into the hospital has been accounted for.1 As of Tuesday the 3rd, 20 are still hospitalized, half of those in critical condition.4 CNNMexico interviewed several nurses currently being treated for first-degree burns, “I feel grateful to have another chance to keep living, to keep working as a nurse.”1

The truck was carrying liquefied petroleum gas commonly used for heating and cooking: mostly propane or butane. Up to 80% of Mexicans use this kind of gas instead of natural gas dispersed by main lines. It is highly explosive and delivered by trucks (as it was in this case) or cylinders. Gas Express Nieto, the company that owned the truck, has been in operation since 2007, contracted to supply gas to public hospitals by the Mexico City government. Three company employees have been arrested for the incident, including the driver of the truck and two assistants, Julio César Martínez, Carlos Chavez and Salvador Alatorre, respectively.1 All three men are currently hospitalized due to injury from the accident while their exact charges have not been released to the public.3

Martínez, Chavez and Alatorre claim they heard a noise as they were making the delivery and shortly after realized there was a leak in the bottom of the truck. Mexico City District Attorney Rodolfo Rios has reported, “They tried to stop the leak with wet rags. When that didn’t work, they made the emergency call.”5 Although the hospital and surrounding homes were reduced to rubble, the gas truck was able to maintain 87% of its capacity.5 Rios’ office has launched a full investigation into the crimes of manslaughter and injuries to persons. Drawing from forensic evidence, experts hope to determine the cause of the explosion. The federal Energy Secretariat has also opened an investigation to assure that Gas Express Nieto was in compliance with all gas transport and delivery regulations.5


Sources:

1) Schoichet, Catherine E., Mariano Castillo and Rafael Romo. “3 arrested in connection with deadly Mexico hospital blast.”CNN. Available at:http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/30/world/mexico-explosion/

2) “Routine gas delivery behind Mexico hospital tragedy.” AP via CBS News. Available at:http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mexico-city-maternity-hospital-explosion-caused-by-gas-delivery-leak/

4) “Mexico raises death toll to 4 from gas explosion at hospital.” AP via ABC News. Available at:http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/mexico-raises-death-toll-gas-explosion-hospital-28719970

3) Hastings, Deborah. “Three arrested in connection with Mexico City baby hospital explosion.” NY Daily News. Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/gas-truck-driver-arrested-mexico-baby-hospital-blast-article-1.2098823

5) “Mexico hospital explosion blamed on leaky gas-truck valve.” Latin American Herald Tribune. Available at: http://laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2372024&CategoryId=14091

 

About Author(s)

Danielle Scalise
Danielle Scalise is a senior undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing degrees in Economics and Political Science, with a minor Spanish and certificate in Latin American Studies. She took part in the Pitt in Cuba program in the spring of 2013 and is currently an intern for Panoramas. Danielle is attending Georgetown Law in the fall where she will study international economic law pursuing a career specializing in US/Latin American trade relations.