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Investigators Continue Work At Fire Site

SOCORRO, N.M. May 17, 2013 – The investigation into a fire that injured four people at a remote site on the EMRTC Test Range on Monday is still ongoing as of Friday morning. New Mexico Tech investigators have closed the site of the fire and continue their fact-finding work.

The injured people were consolidating energetic materials from a truck to a test site for a training exercise when the material caught fire unexpectedly. Three Tech employees – Kelly McLain, Darryl Cases and Pedro Robles – helped evacuate two other injured people to a nearby bunker, where they provided First Aid to the injured people.

McLain, a research engineering at EMRTC, was treated at Socorro General Hospital and released. Cases was treated for a knee injury suffered while helping the burn victims. James Chavez and Andrew Baca – subcontractors to one of Tech’s customers – were transported to Albuquerque via helicopter. They remain in a burn treatment facility.

The fire was at the High Performance Magazine, or HPM, site on the west side of ‘M’ Mountain about five miles due west of the main campus, roughly a 30-minute drive. No students were involved and the public was never in danger. While the HPM site remains closed, the remainder of the EMRTC test range is open.

The fire spread to two trucks, which were destroyed. No structures were damaged and the fire did not result in an explosion. The hole in the ground that was shown by TV news outlets was dug in preparation for the test.

University president Dr. Daniel H. Lopez is out of town, but has been receiving regular updates since the fire. He extended his best wishes to those who were injured.

“Unfortunately, we had an accident at one of our research and testing units Monday,” Lopez said. “The injuries that occurred as a result are serious, but thankfully are not life-threatening. It’s always tragic when any mishaps occur and our first concern is always the safety of our employees.

“In this case, while two of the injured parties were not our direct employees, we extend our heartfelt concerns to the family, friends and the company and are thankful and hopeful that they’ll make a quick recovery,” Lopez said.

“As for our employee, the injuries were less severe, but our thoughts and prayers are also with her,” he said.

– NMT –