Encinal seeking answers in wake of massive pipeline explosion

UPDATE: Investigation into natural gas explosion

An explosion at a natural gas pipeline facility shook a small South Texas town out of its sleep early Friday morning.

The explosion happened around 4:15 a.m. at Lewis Energy Group off Interstate 35 and led to evacuations of several employees at the facility, as well as residents in the area.

Eyewitnesses in Cotulla and surrounding areas said the flames from the explosion were visible up to 20 miles away.

KENS 5 viewer Juan Lopez posted this photo on Facebook from about 20 miles away on a drilling rig between Catarina and Encinal on Highway 83.



Friday afternoon, the people who live in Encinal, about 120 miles southwest of San Antonio, said they want answers.

KENS 5 viewer video shows what the people of Encinal experienced Friday morning. Lamar Barnes said he woke up to a strong light, then a disturbing jolt. "A few seconds after when woke up with the light, we heard the explosion," said Barnes. "It made us drop to the ground. It knocked our plants, a lot of artifacts we have on the wall--knocked them off the wall." 

It was two explosions from a natural gas pipeline facility owned by Lewis Energy Group. "We heard the first boom at 4:18 because it's even recorded," said Anselma Aldalco, evacuee. "The second one was just right after it."

Images from Chopper 5 showed the aftermath of the explosion around 9 a.m. Flames were still very visible in the area where the explosion occurred.

Velma Davila, Encinal City Manager said the explosion prompted 30 to 40 homeowners to voluntarily seek shelter at city hall and at the Love's Travel Store off of Interstate 35. 

Only one individual was listed officially as an evacuee. Luckily, no one was injured in the blast or subsequent fire.

"Like they heard a large, maybe like an earthquake," said Davila. "Their house shook. So that's what scared them."

By 9:00 a.m., the huge fire had been contained. The danger was diminished, but the investigation was just beginning. 

Lewis Energy Group held a press conference at 1 p.m. to clear up some details on the explosion. "We are unsure of the cause is until we get  it isolated and secured to send in investigators and our team to figure out what caused it then we will report back," said Craig Rosenstein, Lewis Energy Group.

Cotulla ISD reported that Encinal Elementary School was closed Friday as a result of the explosion. Students were expected to return to school Monday.


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