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Subject: Petroleum Tank Explodes, Killing Four Teenagers

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Date Posted: April 13, 2003 1:24:20 EDT

A petroleum tank exploded as five teenagers were standing on top of it, killing four, authorities said.

Three of the teens were pronounced dead Friday night at the scene of the explosion in the Long Lake area, about 10 miles west of Palestine in eastern Texas.

A fourth died Saturday afternoon at a hospital where she was airlifted following the blast, which occurred about 10 p.m. Friday. A fifth was treated for minor injuries and released.

Authorities said the blast threw some of the teens between 50 and 75 yards away, police said. The tank, owned by Key Production Company Inc., had about 6 inches to a foot of oil in the bottom.

Investigators were trying to determine what ignited the blast.

A witness said he saw flames shoot up about 100 feet in the air. Vernel Smith, who lives about a mile from the scene, said she felt her house shake.

"It rocked my house from front to back," Smith said. "I thought my water heater had exploded or something."

Lt. Chuck Franklin said the teenagers were camping at a cabin with their grandfather Friday night, and at some point went for a walk and ended up at the tank.

Killed instantly in explosion were Justin Rober, 15, Pless Kropp, 14 and Jessica Ross, 15; Amanda Ross, 14, was pronounced dead Saturday. All were from Mount Enterprise.

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