3 workers dead after power plant blast

Tom Dalton, The Salem News

November 7, 2007

Three power plant workers who were severely burned in a steam explosion on Tuesday died overnight at a Boston hospital.

Early Wednesday, Brigham and Women's Hospital confirmed the deaths of Salem Harbor Station employees Mark Mansfield, 41, of 24 Elm St., Peabody; Phillip Robinson, 56, of 16 Robb Road, Beverly; and Matthew Indeglia, 20, of 12 Pere Marquette, Lawrence.

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

The workers suffered burns to their heads, arms and hands when an external water tube on a coal boiler ruptured at about 8:50 a.m. on Tuesday.

The family of Indeglia, 20, issued a statement Wednesday.

"We are deeply saddened by this unfortunate accident which took the life of our beloved Matthew," the family wrote. "We have been blessed to have had such a beautiful young man in our lives. His greatest quality was the unwavering love that he bestowed on his entire family."

The power plant also issued a statement.

"All of Dominion is greatly saddened at the deaths of these men," said Thomas Farrell II, chairman and chief executive officer of Dominion, the Virginia energy company that bought the power plant three years ago. "They were valuable members of the Salem Harbor family. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families."

The power plant has been shut down today "so that the station can focus on the needs of its employees and a full safety review can occur," the company said in a statement.

The cause and exact location of the tube rupture is not known, the company said.

Please see Thursday's edition of The Salem News for more on the deadly explosion.

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Three workers seriously burned in power plant explosion

Julie Manganis, The Salem News

November 7, 2007

SALEM – Three workers were seriously injured when a pipe carrying pressurized steam and hot water burst at the Salem Harbor Station power plant yesterday morning.

The explosion occurred just before 9 a.m. on the outside of what is known as coal boiler No. 3, sending 320-degree steam and debris into the area where three employees were working, Salem fire Capt. Alan Dionne said.

The injured workers are Mark Mansfield, 41, of 24 Elm St., Peabody; Phillip Robinson, 56, of 16 Robb Road, Beverly; and Matthew Indeglia, 20, of 12 Pere Marquette, Lawrence, according to police.

The workers suffered severe burns to their faces, heads, necks and hands, Dionne said. All three were taken to local hospitals and then transferred to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, where Mansfield and Robinson were listed in critical condition last night. The hospital did not give a condition update on Indeglia.

Firefighters had originally hoped to fly two of the men by medical helicopter, but the chopper was grounded by bad weather, Salem police Capt. Paul Tucker said.

Gary Courts, managing director for plant owner Dominion New England, said company officials were with the employees' families at the hospital.

"Our hearts and our prayers go out to our co-workers at this difficult time," Courts said during a press briefing yesterday afternoon.

It is not clear why the pipe, or external water tube, failed. By late afternoon, inspectors still had not entered the area where the explosion occurred, Courts said, because of concerns about the possible presence of asbestos or other hazards. He said there was no danger to people or property nearby.

Most of the plant's approximately 145 workers were sent home by 10:30 a.m. Courts said a skeleton crew of essential employees kept the rest of the plant operating yesterday.

The 745-megawatt Salem Harbor Station has four boilers. Three coal boilers were in operation at the time of the accident, and two of them continued to run afterward. A large oil-fired boiler was not in use.

Agencies investigating

Police set up a barricade across the plant's main entrance and allowed only public safety and plant officials through.

Along with plant officials, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the state fire marshal's office and the Salem Fire Department will be among those trying to determine the cause of the accident. The Department of Environmental Protection also was on the scene.

The pipe that burst was carrying steam of at least 320 degrees, at a pressure of 1,800 to 2,000 pounds per square inch, Dionne and Courts said.

Power plants use what is known as "superheated" steam to run their turbines, which generate electricity. The higher the temperature of the steam, the more efficiently the plant operates, according to information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Salem plant was built in 1951 and expanded in 1958 with the addition of boiler No. 3, where yesterday's explosion occurred. Salem Harbor Station can generate enough electricity to power about 750,000 homes.

Salem fire officials said there is no history of problems with the power plant, citing records for the past five years that showed no accidents, fires or other safety incidents, other than a minor steam leak in 2003.

Of the 19 Fire Department calls to the plant in the past five years, eight were for ambulances for sick or injured workers, and 10 were for fire alarms that turned out to be false or for unusual odors in the plant.

"It is our opinion and belief this plant is run very safely," Dionne said.

OSHA has investigated two incidents at the plant over the past seven years, both of which were minor, according to a spokesman for the federal agency.

Salem firefighters have been working with Dominion as they train a team of firefighters in confined space rescues, Dionne said. The team is being trained to conduct various types of rescues, not only from the power plant but at other facilities where workers could become trapped or stranded.

Firefighters were at the plant on Monday but were not training inside the boiler area where the explosion occurred, Dionne said.

'Proud of record' (See OSHA Fines)

Courts said he is "very proud" of Dominion's record. He said the plant conducts regular training and daily safety briefings. The boilers are also inspected annually.

Mayor Kim Driscoll visited the plant for about half an hour just after noon. State Rep. John Keenan also came to the scene and expressed confidence in the plant's safety record.

A handful of neighborhood residents and at least two wives of plant workers came to the scene yesterday morning after learning about the incident.

Estelle Coan of Peabody got a call from a friend who saw news reports yesterday morning. She raced down to the plant to make sure her husband was not among the injured after she was unable to reach him on his cell phone.

She was "extremely relieved," she said, to learn that he was safe.

Staff writer Tom Dalton contributed to this article.