Gas Cylinders Being Removed after Deadly Explosion in Connecticut

February 11, 2010

Crews were slowly and carefully removing gas cylinders from the site of a deadly explosion at an under-construction power plant in Connecticut, and investigators have interviewed survivors in an effort to determine the cause of the blast.

Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano said crews were removing more than 100 of the 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. Five workers were killed.

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.

Claims Requests
Meanwhile, Middletown Mayor Sebastian Guiliano says the general contractor building the plant is asking for property damage claims from neighbors.

O&G Industries Inc., the general contractor for the Kleen Energy project, has asked that property owners forward claims to the Torrington-based company’s insurance carrier.

The massive blast Sunday that killed five people also damaged homes, garages and other structures in a broad area surrounding the site.

A spokesman for O&G did not immediately comment when contacted.

Also Tuesday, State Rep. James O’Rourke, state Sen. Eileen Daily and Portland First Selectwoman Susan Bransfield planned to meet with residents in Portland, across the Connecticut River from the plant, to assess damage to homes and listen to other concerns. Some residents have said the blast broke windows and caused other damage to their homes.

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