The employees have been found to have a connection to oil thefts, rampant across the nation.
"At present, 45 employees have been laid off after investigations into suspicions they took part in fuel theft," Miguel Tame, Refining Director for Pemex, said at the site of the accident, reported Dow Jones.
Pemex suspects that oil theives hacked into the pipeline, and the flow became uncontrollable, traveling into the city of San Martin Texmelucan in central Mexico. The fuel was then ignited during the early morning hours of December 19, killing 29 people and injuring more than 50.
Investigations continue into the cause of the accident, but the state of the pipeline has been ruled out as the cause.
Escalating Violence in Mexico
Recently, Mexican oil and gas operations have been stymied by criminal activities. Various criminal groups have been intercepting petroleum pipelines spanning the country to siphon product and resell it.
In June 2010, Pemex filed suit in a Houston federal court against a number of US oil producers for knowingly buying stolen product from thieves. The company claimed in 2006 that some $300 million in petroleum products were smuggled across the US border in tanker trucks that were hijacked.
Additionally, reports of drug gangs kidnapping Pemex employees have surfaced and are reportedly the cause of some production shut-in in Mexico.