Sustained Outrage

CSB barred from probe of Conn. power plant explosion

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A federal agency that only last week issued urgent recommendations for protecting workers involved in gas-line purging has been barred from the site of the Connecticut power plant explosion that killed at least five workers.

Daniel Horowitz, spokesman for the CSB, said local and state officials blocked his agency’s investigation team from the site, saying the power plant construction zone was a potential crime scene. Horowitz said in an e-mail this afternoon:

… We are in the vicinity but we have no significant access to witnesses or evidence which is being seized by state police.  Our access to site is only peripheral observation.

Sunday’s explosion at a natural gas power plant being built for Kleen Energy Systems LLC at Middletown, Conn., may be the latest in a strong of accidents involving the use of natural gas to clean out pipes.

We reported on this Sunday afternoon and since then the story has been picked up by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times,  the Christian Science Monitor, the local Middletown Press, and the Hartford Courant, among others.

Other media, including The Associated Press, are right now focused on word that some workers at the plant site had been clocking 80-hour weeks, and that one employee reported a natural gas smell an hour before the explosion.

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Middletown Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshall, Al Santostefano, center, and other police and fire officials set up a temporary emergency staging area on River Road in Middletown, Conn., on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010, after an explosion at a nearby power plant Sunday morning. (AP Photo/George Ruhe)

middletown_ronaldcrabb.jpgmiddletown_chriswalters.jpgThe Times also had a touching story about some of the fallen workers,  including Ronald Crabb and Chris Walters (left):

Their obituaries will call them pipe fitters, and they will not be wrong, but they certainly will not be exactly right. The work these men did went far beyond threading and brazing, welding and rigging — they were coaches and leaders, self-appointed statesmen of the cities where they lived. They were tradesman-citizen throwbacks who gave of their time after work the way they gave of their backs on the job.

It’s worth noting again that the CSB back in October declined to issue urgent safety recommendations about gas-line purging, despite being urged by its own investigators to do so. Board members did vote to issue those recommendations during a meeting last Thursday, after being harshly criticized by labor groups and work place advocates for not initially doing so.