1 dead, 2 injured in boiler collapse

January 28, 2008 6:47:10 PM PST
A demolition project in San Francisco turned deadly Monday when part of an abandoned power substation fell on workers. It happened at the old PG&E plant at Evans and Jennings in Hunters Point. One worker was killed with several others trapped.

Two victims were rescued, but the body of a third remains in the debris. We saw heavy equipment operators working gingerly to move some of the twisted steel beams.

PG&E's contractor had the five-story boiler structure rigged to be pulled down when it suddenly toppled over on its own.

A San Francisco Fire Department spokesman described how the structure basically "pancaked and twisted as it fell down."

The steel beams housed a boiler for generating power and three people were trapped under the debris.

"The first person pulled out had very serious life-threatening injuries and was transported to San Francisco General Hospital," says Captain Mindy Talmadge, San Francisco Fire Department.

A second victim was crushed as the boiler collapsed and buried him. The process of extracting the body will be a difficult one because the steel beams are not stable.

"We were able to cut a third individual out and that person's legs were crushed and had serious head lacerations, but was alive."

PG&E says the Hunters Point power plant was shut down nearly two years ago. The demolition is being done by a contractor named LVI Services.

The only safety violation Cal/OSHA could find for LVI was a citation in 2003 for improper disposal of hazardous material. LVI was fined $5,000. PG&E says the accident is under investigation.

A PG&E spokesman says its thoughts are with the workers and relatives of the accident victims.

San Francisco Fire Department has a special unit that specializes in extracting trapped people. They are being credited with helping the two surviving victims so they could be taken away for immediate care.