|Christopher Irvin (Deceased) age 40, of Tampa|
|Frank Lee Jones, 55, died Saturday|
Fourth TECO worker dies from industrial accident;
55-year-old, Frank Lee Jones died Saturday.
By: FOX 13 News staff
Updated: Jul 08 2017 11:01PM EDT
TAMPA (FOX) - A fourth worker has now died from his injuries after the industrial accident at a TECO power plant on June 29.
A TECO spokesperson announced that 55-year-old, Frank Lee Jones died Saturday.
In an interview after the accident Jones’ wife, Tracy said, “Frank, that's my rock." The accident at TECO's Big Bend Power Plant left both her husband, Frank Lee Jones, and her son, Gary Marine Jr., fighting for their lives. Both suffered severe burns.
Both her husband and son worked for Gaffin Industrial - a contracting company in Riverview. Her husband had put in 27 years. Gary had just recently started.
LINK: Support for families of TECO accident victims
LINK: Support for injured worker, Amando Perez
After the accident, the company's president, Mark Gaffin called his company family-like. He organized a fundraiser at Alpha Pizza to benefit the Jones family and Chris Irvin's, who also died of his injuries.
"Chris was a phenomenal guy. Great, worked his butt off. We had more customers request Chris be there than just about anybody else," Gaffin said.
At the time, the workers were using a water-blaster to try and unclog a slag tank. That's when molten slag started spewing out. Three people died as a result. Most recently, 21-year-old Antonio Navarrete.
LINK: Support for Antonio Navarrete's family
Antonio Navarrete, a contractor working at the Big Bend Power Station, passed away after being hospitalized for several days.
“Our heartfelt prayers and sympathy are extended to his family and friends as we keep our primary focus on supporting our employees and their families during this difficult time,” wrote a spokesperson for his employer, BRACE Industrial Group.
Two other workers died at the scene.
Gaffin Industrial Services
We specialize in industrial waterblasting and vacuum services. We utilize 10,000 to 20,000 psi waterblasting pumps. For Vacuum services, we utilize Guzzler and GapVax high volume Vacuum trucks. We are experts in online and offline cleaning of industrial systems.
Hillsborough medical examiner: Two dead at TECO plant were power-washing near slag tank
By Sara DiNatale, Dan Sullivan, Anastasia Dawson and Neil Bedi
Saturday, July 1, 2017 12:29pm
Luis Santana | Times
Two people were killed and four people were seriously injured Thursday in what is being described as a "major incident'' at the Tampa Electric Company power plant in Apollo Beach, FL, Thursday, June 29, 2017. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue units responded to a 911 call about a possible explosion at the Big Bend Power Station at approximately 4:20 p.m.Four people were transferred to Tampa General Hospital, spokeswoman Ellen Fiss said. Two were transported by ground and two by air. None were identified as of Thursday evening. The hospital remains on stand-by in case there are more patients.
TAMPA — Both men killed Thursday at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach were using pressure washers moments before lava-like slag gushed out of a tank and burned them, according to preliminary reports released Saturday by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner.
The reports do not list an official cause of death for either man, but both were "covered in slag," the reports said.
Molten slag can reach temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees. Officials for Tampa Electric said workers were trying to unplug the clogged tank when the accident occurred.
Both Michael McCort, 60, a senior plant manager, and Christopher Irvin, 40, a contract employee, died at the scene. Five others were transported to Tampa General Hospital.
Pressure washing is one of two common ways to clean out the inside of a slag tank, said Walter Godfrey, the president of Fire/Reconstruction Consultants Inc. in Cape Canaveral, which investigates fires and explosions.
"It's like using a sandblasting unit, except you're using water instead," he said.
McCort's family declined to speak with reporters. His daughter, Heather McCort, posted on Facebook Saturday morning that her father lost his life "helping others and being a hero."
"The world lost such a wonderful man, husband, grandfather and friend," she wrote.
Irvin's family also declined to speak with a reporter Saturday, saying they were in mourning. Irvin was never married, but was a father to one child and was expecting another, the medical examiner wrote. He worked for Gaffin Industrial Services in Riverview, one of Tampa Electric's contractors at the plant.
In 2007, a Gaffin employee was killed in White Springs while using a power washer to clean the inside of a hot-well tank, according to an investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The worker accidentally clipped his leg with the stream of water, which was so powerful that it cut his femoral artery. Gaffin was fined $35,000.
Four workers injured at the Tampa Electric plant remained in the hospital Saturday with life-threatening burns: Antonio Navarrete, 21, and Armando J. Perez, 56, both of Wimauma; and two Tampa men related by marriage, Frank Lee Jones, 55, and his stepson, Gary Marine Jr., 32.
Marine and Jones worked for Gaffin, like Irvin, the Times reported Friday. Navarrete and Perez worked for BRACE Industrial Group, the Times reported, along with an unidentified fifth worker, who was treated at the hospital and released.
McCort was the only worker who was a Tampa Electric employee.
Family members for the surviving workers could not be reached or declined to comment Saturday.
Tampa Electric spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said the company could not release new information about the accident Saturday. "This is a very complex investigation and we are unable to provide updates," she said.
Two investigators from OSHA have started an investigation that could last six months.
Two people were killed and four others were critically injured Thursday afternoon in a reported explosion at a large coal power plant near Tampa, Fla., authorities said.
Emergency workers responded around 4:20 p.m. to the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach and found six people with severe burns at Unit 2, one of its four coal-fired units. Two people were declared dead at the scene, and the four others were taken to Tampa General Hospital with life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
The workers, who included one plant employee and five contractors, suffered burns and other injuries, said Corey Dierdorff, a spokesman for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.
“They would be categorized as very severe,” Mr. Dierdorff said at a news conference.
A spokeswoman at Tampa General Hospital said about 7:30 p.m. that it would not immediately release the conditions of the four patients. Two people were taken there by air ambulance and the other two by ground.
Officials with the Big Bend plant, which is operated by Tampa Electric, said the episode occurred while workers were conducting “routine maintenance” on a slag tank at the bottom of Unit 2’s boiler. The tank collects coal slag, a glasslike waste product formed after the remains of burned coal are mixed with cold water. It is sold and reused as an abrasive in products like sandpaper.
The two workers who died at the plant were covered in slag, which can reach temperatures far above 1,000 degrees, authorities said.
“We are looking into what happened,” Cherie Jacobs, a Tampa Electric spokeswoman, said in an interview. “There are few details.”
Mr. ierdorff said about 7 p.m. that the situation was under control and that all other workers had been accounted for. Unit 2 was shut down after the explosion.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that investigates workplace accidents, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on Thursday night.
The agency levied a $25,200 fine in 1999 against Tampa Electric, which is a division of TECO Energy, for serious safety violations at the Gannon Power Station, another plant in Hillsborough County that now operates under a new name. The safety violations led to an explosion that killed three people and injured dozens more. In 2000, the company paid a $7,000 fine by OSHA in connection to an electrocution and $3,375 for violations related to the housekeeping of coal at Big Bend Power Station.
The Big Bend Power Station sits on about 1,500 acres off a road by the same name on a swath of waterfront land in Hillsborough County, about 15 miles southeast of downtown Tampa. It is among the largest plants in Florida, producing more than 1,700 megawatts of electricity.
The first of its four coal-fired units began service in 1970, according to the company. The second unit, where the accident occurred, went online in 1973. A natural gas and “fuel oil-fired peaking unit” was added eight years ago.
The plant also features a “Manatee Viewing Center” that The Tampa Bay Times said is a popular stop among tourists who can see the station’s towering stacks from almost anywhere in the city.
TECO, federal officials looking for answers in fatal power plant accident
TECO officials have not released much information but said the accident was caused by spillage from a slag tank at the Big Bend power plant just before 4:30 p.m. Thursday. (Bay News 9 image)
By Dalia Dangerfield and Saundra Weathers, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Thursday, July 06, 2017, 11:50 AM EDT
APOLLO BEACH --
Update: 9:20 a.m. - BRACE Industrial has reported that BRACE employee Antonio Navarrete has died from injuries suffered during a industrial accident at Tampa Electric's Big Bend power plant on June 29.
"Our heartfelt prayers and sympathy are extended to his family and friends as we keep our primary focus on supporting our employees and their families during this difficult time," Chris Jones, Vice President, said.
Antonio Navarrete's mother sent in this photo of her son.
Original Report: Tampa Electric and federal officials are trying to determine the cause of Thursday's industrial accident that left two people dead and four others injured at the TECO power plant in Apollo Beach.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Friday morning it has officially opened an investigation into the accident.
Investigation ongoing into Thursday's fatal accident
Accident occurred in slag tank at Big Bend
TECO officials have not released much information but said the accident was caused by spillage from a slag tank at the Big Bend power plant just before 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
The tank is located at the bottom of one of the power plant stacks. A slag is basically what's left over from producing power from coal.
"What happens is you burn coal and those burned bits of coal fall into this slag tank which contains water," said TECO spokesperson Cherie Jacobs. "It cools off those pieces and it makes them crystallize."
Routine maintenance on the slag tank was being conducted when the accident happened.
Two people died at the scene, she said. Two were airlifted to Tampa General Hospital, and two others were taken by ground to Tampa General. They suffered severe burn injuries.
Officials released the names of the victims Friday afternoon. A contractor who died has been identified as Christopher Irvin, 40. A longtime TECO employee who died is not being identified at this time due to a request from the family. The four who suffered life-threatening injuries have been identified as Gary Marine Jr., 32, Antonio Navarrete, 21, Frank Lee Jones, 55, and Armando J Perez, 56.
TECO announced the situation was under control about two hours after the incident and that there was no threat to the public.
Family, former colleagues react
Less than a day later, family and friends of those lost were still devastated by what had occurred.
"I knew all those guys," said Steve Chamberland. "I worked with Frank [Lee Jones] and I worked with Chris [Irvin]. So I used to work with them and I know their work ethic. The hardest workers they got is those two guys."
The four men who suffered life-threatening injuries, along with the deceased Christopher Irvin, all worked for Gaffin Industrial, a contractor for TECO. Chamberland said Jones is the best at his job, which made the fact that this happened surprising.
"[Jones] is the guy," said Chamberland. "He’s the guy Gaffin would call if there was a tough job -- Frank wouldn’t do anything but the tough jobs. And everyone at TECO would ask, ‘Frank’s coming right?’ because they knew what he did."
Meanwhile TECO CEO Gordon Gillette spoke about the employee they lost in the accident.
"He worked at TECO for decades," said Gillette. "In fact, he was going to be celebrating his 35th work anniversary with TECO. He worked at TECO as a senior plant operator, he was well respected, and well liked by all of his fellow team members."
The family of that TECO employee has asked that we not identify him publicly, so that they can mourn in peace.
Union challenges use of contractors to increase profits
IBEW Local 108, the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, issued the following statement regarding the accident at Big Bend Power Station on June 29, 2017.
"IBEW Local 108 expresses our sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in this tragic accident. The local hopes that those that were injured have a full and speedy recovery.
This incident could have been avoided - period. It's time to listen to the employees. It's time to stop using contractors to do “routine maintenance” when the safety of this maintenance has been questioned by employees. It's time to stop putting profit before safety. It's time to truly put safety first.
IBEW Local 108 has always been concerned and focused on employee safety. We are currently working with OSHA in their investigation, and we are determined to do all that we can to prevent this from happening again. This will take cooperation, understanding, and effort from all parties. It can't be one sided."
The incident occurred at the Big Bend Station, one of three TECO power plants and the largest. It runs on coal.
Thursday's incident comes almost two decades after a deadly explosion at TECO's Gannon power plant. That happened on April 8, 1999, with three people killed and 50 more injured.
Hydrogen contained inside the 375-megawatt generator exploded when the access cover was prematurely opened during a maintenance outage, Tampa Electric said the next day.
TECO was fined $25,200.
In July 2014, a contractor died when he slipped and fell while working at the plant. He fell through a grate on a catwalk.
Big Bend Power Station Explosion: Victims ID’d
Authorities have released the names of the two men killed and four critically injured in an explosion at TECO's Big Bend plant.
By Sherri Lonon (Patch Staff) - Updated June 30, 2017 2:21 pm ET
APOLLO BEACH, FL — As authorities continue to investigate the cause of a Thursday explosion at TECO’s Big Bend Power Station that left two people dead and four critically injured, the names of the victims have been released.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office announced the names Friday afternoon. Deputies say the wife of one of the fatality victims, a 60-year-old man from Riverview, requested his name not be released to the public. Patch is honoring that request.
Christopher Irvin, 40, of Tampa was the other person killed when the incident, described as an industrial accident by authorities, occurred Thursday afternoon.
The four surviving victims remained at Tampa General Hospital Friday afternoon, the sheriff’s office wrote in an email to media. All four are described as having life-threatening injuries. Authorities say they are:
Gary Marine Jr., 32, of Tampa
Antonio Navarrete, 21, of Wimauma
Frank Lee Jones, 55, of Tampa
Armando J. Perez, 56, of Wimauma
The accident at the 603 Big Bend Road plant occurred shortly before 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Routine maintenance was being performed on a "slag tank" when the accident happened, TECO spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs told Patch on Thursday. The tank contains burned pieces of coal and water.
Jacobs said five of the six people involved in the accident were contractors for TECO. One was an employee. Jacobs said the cause of the accident remains under investigation.
"It's a sad day here," Jacobs said on Thursday.
TECO officials also took to Twitter to express condolences to the families of those involved, and gratitude to first responders.
The Big Bend Power Station sits on 1,500 acres of land near Apollo Beach. It houses four coal-fired units, according to the TECO website.
No further information is available at this time.
APOLLO BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – The names of the victims from Thursday’s industrial incident at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Plant were released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. All next of kin were notified.
- Christopher Irvin (Deceased) age 40, of Tampa
- Michael Patrick McCort (Deceased) age 60, of Riverview
- Gary Marine Jr. (life-threatening injuries) age 32, of Tampa
- Antonio Navarrete (life-threatening injuries- deceased at the hospital) age 21, of Wimauma
- Frank Lee Jones (life-threatening injuries - deceased at the hospital) age 55, of Tampa
- Armando J Perez (life-threatening injuries) age 56, of Wimauma
“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the families of everyone who was touched by this incident,” said Gordon Gillete, president and CEO of Tampa Electric. “Safety is the No. 1 priority at Tampa Electric, and we are working hard to determine exactly what happened and why. We will be conducting a complex investigation to determine the root cause.”
One of the men killed was a TECO employee. All of the other victims were contractors working at the plant.
Gillete said there were courageous efforts in the plant to save the employees and contractors. The injured remain at Tampa General Hospital.
TECO and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are working together to investigate what happened at the Big Bend Power Plant in Apollo Beach at about 4 p.m. Thursday. OSHA responds when there are work-related deaths or hospitalizations.
It was initially reported as an explosion by authorities, but TECO said it was a release of the molten slag, a leftover by-product from coal boilers at the plant.
Coal-fired furnace burning above
The left over by-product drips down into slag tank below, which contains water
The burn-off crystallizes into slag – a crunchy glass-like material
The material is still molten hot at that time
That’s what spilled onto the employee and contractors
Workers were trying to unplug a hole in the slag tank at Big Bend Unit 2 when the material spilled out. There was vast quantity of slag on the floor – “6-inches deep and 40-feet in diameter,” Gillete said.
The OSHA inspectors were going over a long list of safety and health standards to see whether TECO may have violated standards that could have led to the incident.
“It’s the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace,” said OSHA spokesman Michael D’Aquino.
Right now, OSHA still has an open investigation, looking into a chemical exposure incident that happened at the plant on May 24. That incident involved the release of Anhydrous ammonia that caused four employees to be hospitalized.
This latest investigation is expected to take several weeks.