Man Loses Leg at Planned PG&E Plant Implosion

Locals were eager to see the old plant torn down to make way for new development

By Lori Preuitt
|  Sunday, Aug 4, 2013  |  Updated 2:33 PM CDT
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A planned implosion of an old PG&E plant in Bakersfield, Calif. ended with one spectator losing a leg.

A planned implosion of an old PG&E plant in Bakersfield, Calif. ended with one spectator losing a leg.

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A planned implosion of an old PG&E plant in Bakersfield, Calif. ended with one spectator losing a leg.

Several other people were hurt when shrapnel from the plant flew several hundred yards to the area where a group was standing. 

The victims were gathered at a nearby Lowe's parking lot ahead of the 6 a.m. event, according to NBC affiliate KGET TV in Bakersfield.

Witnesses said shrapnel from the implosion flew directly east and into the parking lot.  

Bakersfield Police Lt. Scott Tunnicliffe told KGET TV reporter on the scene the man, “sustained an apparent complete amputation of one leg, and the possible amputation of the second.”

"It was a piece of shrapnel that came flying out of the explosion and came across and went through a couple of chain link fences, struck him and impacted into a vehicle," Tunnicliffe told the Associated Press. The 44-year-old victim might lose his other leg as well due to his injuries, Tunnicliffe said.

The amputation was the only serious injury reported. 

PG&E repeatedly stressed it had made no accommodations for the public to view the explosions that brought down the four-story-high derelict power plant, KGET reported. Still, more than a thousand people lined the highway and the Lowe's lot to watch. 

Kern County Fire engineer Leland Davis said all of the injured spectators were standing beyond a perimeter set up to ensure public safety.

Residents of the city about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles were eager to see the old plant torn down to make way for new development. The plant was decommissioned in 1986 and has been idle ever since.

Pacific Gas and Electric reached an agreement with the city to clean up the property and prepare it for sale. The company hired subcontractors to handle the demolition of the plant's boiler structures and worked with local authorities to set up a safe perimeter 1,000 feet from the site, said Denny Boyles, a company spokesman. "We are deeply saddened that this happened," Boyles said. "We're looking for answers like everyone else." Boyles said the boiler structure consisted of two towers measuring 140 feet high that supported four 200,000 gallon tanks.  

A worker was killed June 18, 2012 while dismantling the same plant, according to KGET. 

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