The five workers who died as a result of a fire on Tuesday during penstock maintenance work at Cabin Creek pumped storage plant near Georgetown, Colorado, have been named.
Investigations are still underway as to the cause of the fire at the 324MW plant, owned by Xcel Energy, which was undergoing scheduled maintenance. The epoxy paint being applied in the penstock as an anti-corrosion coating was ablaze, and emergency crews have been unable to say whether bottles of oxygen lowered to the trapped men reached them.
All the deceased came from California, the youngest 18 years old, the oldest 52. They were named as Anthony Aguirre (18), Dupree Holt (37), Donald Dejaynes (43), Gary Foster (48), and James St peter (52).
The accident is under a joint investigation by the sheriff and coroner of Clear Creek County, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the US Chemical Safety Board, and the US Occupational and Safety Administration.
In total, 11 workers were involved with the penstock maintenance work, it has now been confirmed. Two were working outside the penstock, nine inside. Of those inside, four were working at levels below the site of the blaze and managed to escape through the lower portal located off the penstock, near Lower Cabin Creek Reservoir. Two were taken for medical treatment.
The remaining five workers were trapped above the site of the blaze, some 1400ft (430m) up the penstock from the lower portal. They climbed up the penstock and awaited rescue. Fans for the penstock were reversed to drive smoke away from the workers. A mine rescue team reported about 15ft (4.6m) of visibility and that smoke was moving towards the lower portal as intended.
The blaze went out before emergency crews, ascending from the lower portal, reached its location and then climbed higher and found the bodies of the workers.
The penstock is about 4000ft (1230m) long and 12ft (3.7m) diameter. From the lower portal it rises at a two degree angle for 1500ft (460m) then climbs at 10 degrees for a further 1500ft. It was two-thirds of the way along this stretch (2500ft up the penstock, approximately 1000ft from the blaze) that the bodies were found. Beyond that section, the penstock rises 1000ft at 55 degrees, then ascends vertically for 50ft to the Upper Cabin Creek Reservoir.
Cabin Creek, in the Rocky Mountains, started operations in 1967.