Investigators Interview Survivors of Connecticut Blast

February 10, 2010

Investigators looking into the cause of an explosion that killed five people at a Connecticut power plant under construction were interviewing survivors on Tuesday, and crews were working to ensure the badly damaged building was safe.

Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano said crews were slowly and carefully removing more than 100 gas cylinders used for welding and pipe cutting. He said some might be damaged, but the building was metered constantly for any leaks.

Authorities launched a criminal investigation Monday, saying they couldn’t rule out negligence.

The powerful explosion blew apart large swaths of the nearly completed 620-megawatt Kleen Energy plant as workers for the construction company, O&G Industries Inc., were purging a gas line Sunday morning.

During the procedure, local officials said, equipment such as welding machines and electricity should be shut off. Santostefano said he had no indication that a welding torch was left on at the time.

“At this time, we’re not aware of anything like that,” Santostefano said.

Joseph Scovich, a Montville resident who was in a construction trailer at the time of the blast, was thrown against a wall and knocked unconscious, said his attorney, Robert Reardon. The trailer was knocked on its side and its windows were blown out, he said.

Scovich, who suffered neck and back injuries, said they were working seven days per week to get the project done, Reardon said.

“They were told that they were in a rush to get it done because of the deadline that was imposed on them,” Reardon said Tuesday.

In a quarterly report to the Connecticut Siting Council, dated Jan. 15, a lawyer representing Kleen Energy Systems said the construction project was ahead of schedule. While the commercial operation date was set for Nov. 30, 2010, attorney Lee D. Hoffman said “it is currently estimated that the project will come on line in the summer of 2010” and Kleen Energy had notified operators of the regional power grid.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell declared a statewide day of mourning for the five people killed. Rell ordered flags to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Wednesday and asked residents to observe a moment of silence at 11 a.m., the approximate time of Sunday’s blast.

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