Workers said they were close Monday to recovering the body of a contractor trapped almost four days in the rubble of a seven-story Florida power plant that collapsed unexpectedly.
Hopes dimmed over the weekend for the survival of Clark White, 65, a welder from Moundsville, WV, who was working on the first floor of Progress Energy Florida’s retired Paul L. Bartow Power Plant when it crumbled about an hour before demolition was to begin.
|The retired boiler, with a 10,000-square-foot foundation, crumbled an hour before it was set to be demolished.|
White worked for demolition contractor Frontier Industrial Corp., of Buffalo, NY, which was preparing to begin demolishing the Weedon Island facility north of St. Petersburg when it collapsed about 7:15 p.m. Thursday (June 9).
‘Something Went Wrong’
The “controlled collapse” was scheduled for 8:30 p.m., and workers were cutting support beams when Number 3 boiler—the first to be dismantled—came down. The boiler section was a 180-foot structure with a 10,000-square-foot base that made up about one quarter of the overall plant structure, Progress Energy Florida said in a statement.
White was the only person in the building at the time. Twenty-one other Progress and contractor employees were on site at the time, the utility said.
“Something went wrong, but it's just too early at this point to say exactly what that was,” said Progress Energy spokesman Tim Leljedal.
Rescue workers faced considerable dangers in their tireless effort to find White under the mountains of steel and concrete debris. The search involved heavy equipment, dogs and digging by hand.
“It's a dangerous active collapse zone,” Clayton Prescott, an engineer and structure specialist for Hillsborough Fire and Rescue, told WTSP.com. “There's still large portions of debris falling, so we're having to go at the process as safely as possible, which is taking a little more time.”
Prescott said rescue teams were “taking out little pieces at a time” while monitoring the structure for movement. Rescuers hoped White might have been trapped in a void in the wreckage.
Over the weekend, however, hopes faded of finding White, a father and grandfather, alive.
By Monday, officials at the scene said rescue crews believed they were “very close” to finding White.
“Everyone is committed to finding Mr. White,” a Progress Energy spokesman said.
Frontier Industrial did not issue a statement or respond to a request for comment.
The specialty contractor provides demolition, dismantling, industrial gutting, environmental remediation, industrial cleaning, high-structure removal and other services nationwide. Frontier has no serious safety violations with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is investigating the accident.
The Bartow steam plant began service in 1958 and was slated for dismantling following the 2009 construction of four on-site, gas/oil-fired combustion turbines and one steam turbine. The original steam plant units had a combined generating capacity of 452 MW. The site was also home to four combustion turbine units.