Death toll in Propane Tanker explosion in Ecatepec Mexico rises to 24 – Investigation continues

pipaThe investigation into the explosion of a propane tanker pulling double trailers last week on the Mexico City to Pachuca highway continues with details emerging.

Secretary of Communications and Transport, (SCT) spokesman Gerardo Ruiz Esparza  said his agency has determined the tractor double trailer combination, a 2012 Kenworth  was in compliance with all regulations pertaining to LPG transport and with those specified in NOM-012.. It had passed it mandatory safety inspection in February 2013.


The driver of the rig, Juan Omar Diaz Olivares, remains hospitalized in Mexico City in critical condition. It was confirmed on May 9, 2013 by Mexico State Attorney General, Miguel Angel Contreras through his Twitter account that his office has issued an arrest warrant for Diaz Olivares which will be served when his condition improves, Once served, Diaz Olivares will be transferred to a prison in the city of Ecatepec. In Mexico, any accident is investigated as a criminal matter, unlike the United States, where in most cases, it is a civil matter

The SCT, in a statement, said the driver Juan Omar Diaz Olivares held a valid and current Mexican CDL, License # PUE0005512 number, and was in full compliance with all Federal rules, regulations and certifications.

The SCT reaffirmed its commitment to work closely with both the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and the Attorney General of the State of Mexico (PGJEM) to determine the cause of the accident.

At a press conference this past Friday, the Attorney General for the State of Mexico, Miguel Contreras Angel Nieto said the “incompetence and negligence” of the driver in performing a “risky maneuver” was the cause of the accident. Angel Nieto never really explained his finding of “incompetence and negligence”.

He did go on to say that it was the opinion of two “experts” in the field of “land transportation” that the weight, volume and inadequate maneuvering by the driver was determined to be the cause.

No one is really surprised and some in the area where the damage and deaths occurred are saying the driver is being made a “scapegoat” in order to give the government deniability in paying damage claims. How similar is that to the attitude in the United States where the American trucker is judged guilty unless he can prove his innocence.

CNN opened their initial coverage of the accident with the phrase “a speeding tanker” which was quickly picked up and expounded upon by LandLine Magazine, the trade publication of OOIDA. However,reviewing more than 18 news sources and outlets in Mexico, none reported speed to be the cause of the accident.

Not surprising since the tractor trailers of Mexico fleets are speed limited between 95 and 105 kph. (59-66mph).


Almost immediately after the scope of the accident became known, the politicians were out in force, getting face time with the cameras and promising the moon, but so far, delivering very little if anything to the victims.

Some were pointing the finger of blame at the victims, because the homes effected were built so close to the highway. But Eliodors Enriquez Martinez, president of the Sector Improvement Commission Cuauhtemoc, San Pedro said Xalostoc the colonia receiving the damage and deaths, was a part of Ecatepec long before the  Mexico-Pachuca .highway was built. He said that in 2009 the residents of the Colonia Xalostoc opposed to the redevelopment and expansion of the highway, protested and  blocked workers for more than six weeks.

So now, the driver has been charged with “incompetence and negligence” and he and his company will bear the brunt of the financial and criminal responsibility for the accident. Based on this, Octavio Perez Salazar, a spokesman for the Mexican Association of Liquefied Gas Distributors and Related Companies ( Asocimex ) which was involved in the accident, said TERMOGAS will initiate procedures to compensate the victims.

Perez Salazar said that a group of company executives are already working with the authorities in order to ascertain the causes of the accident with the intent to determine the degree of responsibility on the part of the company in the accident and according to the results, the company will be fully responsible for the costs of compensation for those affected and property, whether public or private.

In addition to accidents being a criminal matter in Mexico, the party judged to be at fault is responsible for full and fair compensation to the victims, for any property damage to private property and public infrastructure. And not only is the driver held responsible, officials or owners of the company employing the driver can be held criminally responsible. Although in reality, the executives are able to buy their way out of the problem leaving the employee to pay the penalty.

The Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) said Thursday that it filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to determine if the companies that owned the tanker should  also be held criminally liable.
The Attorney General of the State of Mexico (PGJEM) , so that this determines the amount of compensation to be paid by expats.

The Governor, Eruviel Avila, said that $100,000.00 pesos will be given to each the families of each victim, this in addition to the death benefit of $20,000.00 peso paid by the Federal government. For the owners of the vehicles that were damaged or destroyed, the owners will recieve $65,000.00 pesos in compensation. Additionally, authorities have pledged to cover all the medical expenses of those injured including the two people flown to the United States for treatment of burns and other injuries.


Jose Refugio, a spokesman for Cámara Nacional de Autotransporte de Carga (Canacar) affirmed in an interview with CNN-ESPANOL, said that there are problems in the loads carried by the carriers because the country’s major companies are unwilling to pay more to move the freight.

“It has been abused the double trailers which or neither good nor bad in itself, but by design they were made to move loads of volume, not weight, unfortunately this abuse that has been done in this setting has led to these unfortunate accidents”

What Refugio is referring to is the similar problem we have in the United States where shippers demand utilization of 53′ trailers but only want to pay a minimum rate for our services. The abuses are standard on both sides of the border.

Refugio said that this has been happening since 1993 when Mexico began seriously regulating weight of commercial vehicle. But discussions to further regulate the big double trailer combinations which have been ongoing for more than 5 years have been thwarted by the interests of big business who have been successful in blocking the efforts.

Mexico is the only country in North America that permits loads grossing 160,000 pounds. The U.S. limit is currently 80,000.

Currently, there is a bill in the US Congress referred to as the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act (SHIPA) that would restrict the size and weight of trucks using the US national highway system. This would set the limits to 80,000 pounds gross nationally. It enjoys a wide range of support in the US trucking industry from the Teamsters to trucker associations and the so-called “safety groups” who have done nothing to improve highway safety. And for the record, MTO strongly supports this bill.

This horrific accident in Mexico may well be the death toll for these super doubles in Mexico. We’ll cover that in another article.


This post is part of the following threads: Mexico Trucking, Termogas Tragedy – ongoing stories on this site. View the thread timelines for more context on this post.