Criminal Probe Starts after Explosion at Conn. Gas Plant

Law enforcement authorities in Connecticut announced they will pursue a criminal investigation into what led to an explosion at a gas plant that killed five people, and said they have not ruled out negligence.

Middletown, Conn. Mayor Sebastian Giuliano was quoted saying that if the Kleen Energy Systems plant located within the town was running as it was supposed to, an explosion would not have happened, according to the Associated Press. No cause for the explosion has been discovered at this time, and authorities say investigations could take weeks.

Giuliano was also quoted saying that negligence can go to the point where it will be considered a criminal act and come under scrutiny of police.

Acting Middleton Police Chief Patrick McMahon said police detectives have determined that no intentional harm was done.

McMahon elaborated further that detectives are now focusing their investigative efforts on whether negligence came into play while workers were clearing air from gas lines when the explosion happened.

Aside from killing five people, the blast injured at least a dozen people and the shockwaves were felt as far as six miles away, AP reported. Survivors were later found among the rubble left behind by the explosion.

Aerial photos taken of the plant shortly after the explosion showed a large, burnt out gap in the middle of the two main smoke stacks at the center of the energy plant.

At least 50 people were in the area of the plant when the explosion happened around 11:15 a.m. Sunday, February 7. An exact number of people at the plant had been difficult to produce since several different contractors with their own individual staff lists were working at the time, according to AP.

The plant was in the process of construction to produce natural gas at about 620-megawatts. When the explosion happened, workers with the O&G Industries construction company were purging the gas lines of air. The procedure was described as a “blow down,” according to AP.

Gas line purging has been a controversial subject among the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and their investigators. Last year, a similar procedure performed at a Slim Jim manufacturing facility in North Carolina led to an explosion that killed four workers.

The board has also linked explosions in other plants and factories to workers venting gas lines unsafely within buildings.

Natural gas-powered plants are becoming more prominent throughout the U.S. for generating electricity, AP reported.

Natural gas emits roughly half of the greenhouse gases produced by coal-fueled plants and new technology allows supplies of natural gas to be tapped that could last for about 100 years.

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