Feds to Investigate New Mexico Refinery Blasts

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Federal investigators will help determine what caused two fiery explosions at a gasoline refinery, severely burning four workers.

Investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board, an independent government agency based in Washington, were to arrive late Friday afternoon at the Giant Industries refinery in western New Mexico, east of Gallup. The FBI also launched a routine investigation, and state officials were monitoring the situation.

State police Lt. Jimmy Glascock said Thursday's explosions happened in an area where high-octane fuel is produced.

The refinery and a nearby travel center were evacuated as black smoke billowed from one side of the refinery. About 50 workers were at the refinery at the time, Glascock said.

The four burned employees were airlifted to an Albuquerque hospital. Two were in critical condition Friday, and the other two were listed as satisfactory.

Trucker Michael Metcalf said the explosion rocked his rig. Then, he said, ``I saw flames and black smoke coming out of the refinery, and the flames were shooting out as high as one of the towers.''

Firefighters quelled the blaze with help from the refinery's massive water guns, Fire Chief Louie Chavez said.

Giant Industries refines petroleum products and has retail service stations in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.