Middletown: An explosion that sounded like a sonic boom blew out walls of an unfinished power plant and set off a fire during a test of natural gas lines on Sunday, killing at least five workers and injuring a dozen or more.
The explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Middletown, about 20 miles south of Hartford, could be heard and felt for miles.
Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano said on Sunday night that no one was known to be missing amid the rubble from the damaged plant. Still, crews planned to spend all night going through debris in case there were any more victims. The cause of the gas explosion was unknown, and the investigation was to begin Monday morning, he said.
The explosion left huge pieces of metal that once encased the plant peeling off its sides. A large swath of the structure was blackened and surrounded by debris, but the building, its roof and its two smokestacks were still standing. Rescue crews had set up several tents alongside the site, which is a few miles from Wesleyan University on a wooded and hilly 137-acre parcel of land overlooking the Connecticut River.
The explosion happened around 11:15 am, Santostefano said. Mayor Sebastian Giuliano heard the blast.
"It felt almost like a sonic boom," Giuliano said at an evening news conference.
Santostefano said 50 to 60 people were in the area at the time of the explosion, and multiple contractors were working on the project, making it difficult to quickly account for everyone.
The 620-megawatt plant, which was almost complete, is being built to produce energy primarily using natural gas. Santostefano said workers for the construction company, O&G Industries, were purging the gas line when the explosion occurred.
First Published: Monday, February 08, 2010, 09:08