Woman remains hospitalized after house explosion

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

A 91-year-old Portales woman injured in an explosion at her home was in serious condition and in an intensive care unit Thursday at Lubbock’s Covenant Medical Center, according to an e-mail from the family.

Family members said Clytie Calton suffered multiple injuries to her legs and ankles. Her son, Bill Calton, sustained scrapes and bruises and was not hospitalized.

The exact cause of Wednesday’s explosion at 2113 Ave. I Place was still unknown late Thursday.

Portales Police Department Capt. Lonnie Berry said investigators, including a pipeline expert, would be back at the home today to do more tests.

Clytie Calton and her son, Bill Calton, were in the home when an explosion occurred shortly after 5:30 p.m. Clytie Calton, whom rescuers had to free from debris in the home, was airlifted to Lubbock.

Clytie Calton’s daughter, Sharon Davis, said Thursday night doctors want to stabilize her before more surgery.

“Dr. (Bruce) Owens says very few people younger than her would have survived that kind of accident. He’s very proud of her, but he keeps reminding us that we’re going to be in for a marathon,” she said.

In an e-mail, Bill Calton’s daughter, Sandy Fields, said many members of the extended Calton family regularly gather at “Grandma’s” for supper on Wednesday nights before church. They had done the same this Wednesday, but because of an odor of natural gas they decided to move dinner to Davis’ house. Clytie Calton stayed behind as Bill Calton went to the utility room to check if a water heater pilot light might be out.

“While Daddy was down on the floor in the laundry room checking the water heater, which was lit and seemed to be working fine, the huge explosion happened,” Fields said.

Fields said her father was thrown backward and covered with debris from the blast but managed to free himself. He could hear his mother calling from the kitchen and made his way in to her and was working to get her uncovered as neighbors arrived.

“Our emotions are too hard to describe,” Fields said “We are so terribly, terribly sad that this has happened to Grandma. We can’t stand the thought of it. And at the same time, we are so thankful that the house wasn’t full of people … which it so very nearly was.”

Davis said the family is grateful for the outpouring of concern for her family.

“We just can’t believe it, she said. “We’re so thankful for the community in Portales.”

Berry said building inspectors, police and fire investigators and a representative from PNM were among those also helping with the investigation.