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Safety expert weighs in on Coolidge's deadly pipeline explosion

A pipeline safety expert believes Sunday's fatal explosion in Coolidge produced one of the largest "rupture cavities" they've ever seen.

COOLIDGE, Ariz. — A pipeline safety expert believes the natural gas pipeline that exploded near Coolidge on Sunday killing two people was likely at least 50 years old.

The pipeline exploded Sunday morning, killing Luis Alvarez and his 14-year-old daughter, Valeria. Rosalina Alvarez, the girl's mother, sustained burns to half her body.

The pipeline explosion occurred 120 yards from the Alvarez home, yet the flames were still close enough to catch the family's house on fire. 

Don Deaver has investigated pipeline safety for years. He hasn't examined the Coolidge pipeline in person, but 12 News showed him the Coolidge Police Department's video footage of the pipeline.

"What this shows is, this was definitely a brittle pipeline rupture," Deaver said. 

Deaver said most of the pipelines in the United States have not been replaced since they were originally installed, sometimes more than 50 years ago. 

And over time, those pipelines can become brittle and break.

"This is one of the largest rupture cavities I've ever seen," Deaver said as he watched a video of the Coolidge pipeline. 

The pipeline is owned by El Paso Natural Gas and its parent company, Kinder Morgan, which is one of the largest oil and gas infrastructure companies in the country. 

The company has had other pipelines rupture in the past, sometimes resulting in fatalities.

Kinder Morgan's gasoline pipeline from Texas to Tucson famously broke in 2003, spilling thousands of gallons of gasoline. 

The pipeline was shut down for weeks, causing a gasoline shortage across Arizona. 

The company was fined $500,000 and had to pay $5.5 million for the environmental cleanup. 

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of Sunday's rupture. 

Because of that, the Arizona Corporation Commission said it wouldn't provide any details about the pipeline's inspection history.

Kinder Morgan would not agree to an interview, but instead emailed the following statement:

At approximately 5:45 a.m. MST Sunday, El Paso Natural Gas Company, L.L.C. (EPNG) experienced a pipeline failure resulting in a fire on the EPNG system near Coolidge, Arizona. The impacted pipeline segment was isolated and the fire was extinguished. There were two fatalities and one injury. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and the impacted community, and we are doing all we can to support them during this time.

The pipeline remains shut down and the site secured. There are no ongoing impacts to the environment or community. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident. We are working closely with our customers on any impacts.

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