4th victim who died from boiler blast near Soulard remembered as hard worker; funds set up for families
By Christine Byers St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS • To know Clifford Lee was to know a man with a can-do attitude, a former boss says.
Hence Forland, who runs Windsor Transitional Housing, hired Lee, 53, in November 2015. Lee was featured in two Post-Dispatch stories in 2016 when he was a supervisor for Windsor, an organization that operates a night shelter at the recreation center south of downtown. In August 2016, he was helping train those who will work at Biddle House, a day shelter for the homeless.
“If it wasn’t for him taking on the challenge, we couldn’t have made the transition to Biddle House as smooth for the city of St. Louis,” Forland said. “He and his team made my job easy.
“He fit right in. He came up through the ranks and helped individuals because he let them know, ‘You can do it, you can get the resources.’ He had a real can-do attitude.”
Late last year, Lee left Windsor to try to become a technician installing home security systems, but then went to the Faultless Linen Co. in Soulard knowing it could provide a steady income while he tried to launch his own business, Forland said. The shelter has done business with the linen company, he said.
Lee was with his friends, Christopher Watkins, 46, and Tonya Suarez-Gonzalez, 43, Monday morning filling out new hire paperwork at Faultless when a boiler exploded at the nearby Loy-Lange Box Co. The boiler went airborne for more than 500 feet and crashed through the roof of the health care linen company.
Firefighters freed Lee from underneath the boiler, but he died from his injuries about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Louis University Hospital. He was 53.
Watkins and Suarez-Gonzalez died Monday. Loy-Lange worker Kenneth Trentham, 59, of St Louis, also was killed in the blast, and another man who was injured there remains in critical condition.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board deployed a three-person team to St. Louis on Wednesday to investigate the accident. The agency was funded in 1998 and has investigated only about 130 disasters across the country. It publishes its findings among industries to prevent accidents from happening again. Its investigations typically take about a year to complete, said spokeswoman Amy McCormick.
“As a result of Monday’s explosion, our team will be examining what if any safeguards were in place to protect the workers at the Loy-Lange Box Company, as well as for those in the adjoining building,” according to a statement by Vanessa Sutherland, chairwoman of the agency.
Faultless Linen representatives said Lee had a brother and a sister visit him at the hospital, but they could not be reached for comment.
In previous interviews with the newspaper, Lee spoke about the importance of homeless shelters from his firsthand experience. He lived in them for two years. After 30 years in prison for a series of crimes including robbery and burglary, he found himself sleeping in abandoned buildings and fighting addiction, including crack cocaine.
“I’m one paycheck away, one mistake away from being back there,” Lee told the newspaper om 2015, pointing toward the street. “I don’t want to be there again. I know what they’re going through.”
Forland said he helped Lee move into a new apartment this year in the 4300 block of Forest Park Avenue.
“He was so happy to have his own place,” Forland said.
Several fundraising efforts are underway to assist the families of the deceased and injured.
Suarez-Gonzalez’s children have established a GoFundMe page, and the Sons & Daughters of Soulard, which includes business owners and community members, also has set up an online donation site and plans to cover any fees so that all of the donations can be given to the families.
==================== ST. LOUIS (AP) - The St. Louis medical examiner says a fourth person has died from injuries suffered when a boiler exploded at a St. Louis business.
The medical examiner's office says 53-year-old Clifford Lee died Wednesday at St. Louis University Hospital.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Lee was with two friends Monday filling out new employee paperwork at Faultless Linen Company when the boiler exploded at Loy-Lange Box Co. The one-ton boiler flew about 500 feet through the air and crashed through the linen company's roof.
Lee's friends, 46-year-old Christopher Watkins and 43-year-old Tonya Suarez-Gonzalez, died at the scene.
A Loy-Lange worker, 59-year-old Kenneth Trentham, also died in the blast.
Federal and local investigators are working to determine the cause of the blast.
3 dead after boiler explosion in St. Louis. Lack of proper maintenance is to blame.
Apr 3, 2017, 3:45 PM ET
Three people died and several others suffered serious injuries after a boiler exploded at a building in St. Louis, sending a piece of equipment flying into the air and through the roof of another building, fire officials said.
The boiler explosion at the Loy-Lange Box Co. left one person dead in that building, authorities said at a news conference this morning.
After the explosion, a piece of the boiler was tossed into the air and pierced the roof of a nearby building, the Faultless Healthcare Linen plant, killing two people, officials said.
The mayor's director of communications described the piece of the boiler as "van-sized."
KMOVThe St. Louis Fire Department confirmed the three people had died after a boiler explosion in St. Louis, April 3, 2017.
Two people were in critical condition, and two others suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the fire department said.
Mark Spence, the COO of Faultless Healthcare Linen, confirmed that two Faultless Healthcare Linen employees were killed from debris that came into the plant after the explosion.
"One other Faultless Healthcare Linen employee was involved and the extent of that person’s injuries has not been confirmed," Spence said in a statement. "We immediately will be giving what practical help we can to our employees and their families. We are grateful to the firefighters and other emergency responders who have acted heroically in response to this tragic event."
Spence said this location has 106 employees and that it could not yet be confirmed how many were in the building at the time of the incident.
St. Louis Fire DepartmentThe St. Louis Fire department confirmed that there were three fatalities at Russell and South Broadway in St. Louis.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation because the incident involved fatalities, an OSHA spokesman told ABC News. Health and Safety Compliance Officers are at scene interviewing witnesses and employers to see whether any potential safety violations may have led to the incident, the spokesman said.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Latest on the deadly explosion of a boiler in an industrial area of south St. Louis (all times local):
A spokeswoman for St. Louis' mayor says the city has strict licensure requirements when it comes to boilers much like the van-sized one that exploded Monday morning, killing three people and injuring four others in two different businesses.
St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said the boiler exploded at the Loy-Lange Box Co. in south St. Louis, killing one person there. The chief says much of that equipment flew about 500 feet (150 meters) across the street onto a laundry business, killing two people there when it came through the roof.
Two of the four survivors remained in critical condition later Monday.
Federal workplace safety officials are investigating.
Maggie Crane said on Mayor Francis Slay's behalf that although the city doesn't inspect boilers, it requires any business with one to have a city-licensed engineer on staff whenever one of those pieces of equipment is running. Crane says such licenses must be renewed each year.
Crane says Loy-Lange had three engineers on staff with up-to-date licenses as of Monday.
St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says he believes a boiler explosion that killed three people and injured four others, two critically, in two different businesses was a commercial accident.
Jenkerson says two of the four survivors of the blast shortly before 8 a.m. Monday remain in critical condition. He says one of them was undergoing surgery.
Jenkerson says the boiler exploded at the Loy-Lange Box Co. in south St. Louis, killing one person there. The chief says much of that equipment flew about 500 feet (150 meters) across the street onto a laundry business, killing two people there when it came through the roof. The equipment is described as being the size of a van
Federal workplace safety officials are investigating.
Federal workplace safety regulators say a St. Louis company whose boiler exploded causing at least three deaths Monday has paid fines for workplace violations three times since 2014.
Scott Allen of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the Loy-Lange Box Co. paid a $3,741 fine after an August 2016 inspection found holes in floors that prevented proper cleaning.
An inspection in November 2014 found defective equipment, including a forklift without lights and damage to some safety latches. The company paid $6,566.
And in February 2014, the company paid $2,450 for defective energy control procedures, such as not properly training employees to ensure machinery was turned off and powered down.
Three people died and four were injured when the Loy-Lange boiler exploded, launching parts of it through the roofs of two nearby buildings. It's not clear if any of the earlier safety violations involved the boiler.
Federal workplace safety investigators are at the scene of an industrial boiler explosion that killed three people and hospitalized four others.
Scott Allen with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says OSHA investigators arrived at Loy-Lange Box Co. not long after the blast Monday morning.
St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says the explosion launched a boiler the size of a van through the box company's roof and slammed much of it down hundreds of feet away in a neighboring laundry business.
Jenkerson says the dead include one person at the box company and two at the laundry.
Online OSHA records show that Loy-Lange has paid more than $12,700 in fines as part of three investigation since 2014. The records don't list specifics about the cases, and it's unclear if any citations were related to the boiler or other equipment.
St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says a boiler that killed one person when it exploded at a box company in St. Louis flew about 500 feet before crashing through the roof of a nearby laundry business, killing two more.
The boiler exploded Monday morning at the Loy-Lange Box Co. Four other people were injured and at least two are in critical condition.
A third person at Faultless Healthcare Linen was pinned under the boiler but fire department responders were able to free that victim.
Jenkerson says the boiler was a cast iron cylinder about 8 or 9 feet long and 4 feet in diameter, weighing about 1½ tons. He says it was about the size of a van.
A piece of pipe about 8 feet long pierced the roof of the nearby Pioneer Industrial Corp., but no one was injured there.
Authorities say three people were killed and four others injured when a boiler exploded in a building in an industrial area of south St. Louis, reportedly sending the boiler airborne and through the roof of a nearby building.
The St. Louis Fire Department said on Twitter that two of the victims sustained critical injuries in the blast shortly before 8 a.m. Monday at the Loy-Lange Box Co.
Fire officials say at least three buildings have been damaged by debris.
Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said part of the boiler housed in an office area went through Loy-Lange's roof.
Jenkerson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the explosion seems to have been accidental and that investigators will review machine maintenance records.
No other details have been released, including whether anyone was working on the boiler at the time of the explosion.
The phone rang unanswered at Loy-Lange Box Co., and an email message by The Associated Press to the company wasn't immediately returned.
The company is described on its website as a "full service corrugator and custom box manufacturer."
Messages left with a fire department spokesman were not immediately returned.