LAS CRUCES, N.M. – A fire and explosion critically injured a couple Tuesday evening near the Pilot Travel Center in west Las Cruces.
Shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, Las Cruces firefighters and police were dispatched to the report of a pickup on fire in a parking lot near the Pilot Travel Center at 2681 W. Amador Ave. A police officer was first to arrive on the scene and, as he approached, the fire in the back of the pickup spread to a propane tank causing it to explode.
The couple, a 63-year-old man and 59-year-old woman, were both injured in the blast. Arriving firefighters provided medical attention and quickly extinguished the fire. The two victims were initially transported to local hospitals and then to a burn center in Lubbock, Texas, for advanced treatment. Both victims were in critical condition with possible life-threatening injuries.
The first-arriving police officer was approximately 20-feet from the pickup when the propane tank exploded. He escaped injury and helped extinguish flames to the woman’s clothing. No other injuries were reported.
The couple’s pickup was towing a trailer with three horses and three dogs inside. The animals did not appear to be injured during the explosion. An Animal Control officer took custody of the three dogs while an inspector with the New Mexico Livestock Board found temporary shelter for the three horses.
Fire investigators believe the couple was traveling from Michigan to Arizona and parked in a lot designated for overnight rest near the Pilot Travel Center. It appears a generator in the bed of their pickup caught fire and the couple was attempting to extinguish it when a propane tank, also in the bed of the pickup, exploded.
The cause of the generator fire is still under investigation and damage estimates have yet to be determined.