Three Massachusetts workers dead after water pipe explosion at power plant

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Three power plant workers at the Salem Harbor Power Station in Salem, Massachusetts died overnight after being severely burned when a water tube they were near burst releasing high pressure steam which burned the men on the head, face, neck and hands just before 9 a.m. EST yesterday.

According to Dominion Resources, the Richmond, Virginia energy company which bought the 1950s-era coal-firing plant, from USGen New England, a bankrupted subsidiary of Pacific Gas & Electric, the three men, two operators and a mechanic were working on the ground floor of the plant on a coal-fired generator when the boiler tube exploded twenty feet above sending high pressure steam at a temperature of 320 degrees Fahrenheit and was, according the Salem Fire Department, down towards them.

The three men, Mark Mansfield, 41, of Peabody, Phillip Robinson, 56, of Beverly and Matthew Indeglia, 20, of Lawrence were first rushed to the North Shore Medical Center in Salem before being transported to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston where they died overnight.

"All three men passed away," said hospital spokeswoman Christina Jeffrey.

"All of Dominion is greatly saddened at the deaths of these men, They were valuable members of our Salem Harbor family. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families," announced Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion chairman, president and chief executive officer.

The boiler involved is 50 years old and, according to plant officials, is inspected yearly. The Salem Fire Department said they have received 19 calls concerning the boiler over the past five years, which, according to the fire department, is not unusual. The area where the explosion occurred was last inspected in April. The boiler tubes carry high-pressure water and steam to turn the turbine generators, which spin to produce electricity.

James "Red" Simpson, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 326 has worked at the plant for 25 years said, "In my experience with the plant in the 25 years that I have been here, I can't say enough for the safety programs that are in place. These gentlemen who were sadly killed yesterday were some of the best-trained power plant workers. All of the safety precautions that had to be in place at the time of the accident, were in place."

Dominion has shut the plant's four generators down for a safety review and to assist employees with the deaths. The plant powers 740,000 homes and employs a 145 employees and is located on Fort Avenue in Salem on a 65-acre waterfront site and uses coal-fired generators but also has a generator that runs on oil.