CEO: Molten material hit power plant workers; victims ID’d

Photo: Luis Santana/Tampa Bay Times

APOLLO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Workers at a Florida power plant were trying to unplug a blocked tank when molten material poured onto them, killing two and injuring four others, officials said Friday.

Tampa Electric President and CEO Gordon Gillette said at a news conference that the incident happened Thursday at a coal-fired boiler, while workers were performing routine maintenance on the slag tank at the plant southeast of Tampa. Slag is a byproduct created when coal is burned for electricity.

Gillette said workers were trying to clear a blockage when hot slag came rushing out onto them – some closer to the tank than others.

“Because of the significant radius, all of those on scene were affected in some way, unfortunately,” he said.

Victims sustained burns as well as other injuries that “would be categorized as very severe,” fire-rescue officials said.

The two killed Thursday at the Tampa Electric Co. plant were identified as 40-year-old Christopher Irvin and 60-year-old Michael McCort. Four others were seriously injured and were still being treated at a Tampa hospital.

“There were some extraordinarily courageous efforts on the parts of the TECO team members to save the employee and our contractors,” Gillette said.

On Friday, two investigators from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration were at the scene of the explosion.