One tank cleaner was killed and another was seriously injured this week when the floor gave way in the tank they were cleaning at a California plant near Bakersfield, authorities said.
Oildale Energy LLC
| The plant is owned by Oildale Energy LLC.|
The two employees, one of them unconscious, were trapped inside the 15-foot-tall tank for several hours before they were rescued.
After the two were pulled out, Barry Snelson, 54, of Bakersfield, was pronounced dead at the scene. The other worker, who was not identified, suffered a broken leg.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) is investigating the accident.
Authorities said the men were conducting routine cleaning about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday (Oct. 3) at the Live Oak Cogen Plant when the accident occurred. The plant is owned by Oildale Energy LLC.
The men were employees of Brahma Group, a Salt Lake City, UT-based firm that performs industrial maintenance, steel fabrication and erection, and project management for industrial and commercial customers.
The company, which also has an office in Bakersfield, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The men were standing on some kind of makeshift flooring to do the work when “something happened with the floor” and it collapsed, said Eric Coughran, of the Kern County Fire Department.
The tank, used for water filtering, contained a number of pipes. Snelson apparently hit his head and was knocked out in the fall; he was still unconscious when firefighters pulled him out several hours later. The other worker apparently broke his leg on the piping.
The tank apparently contained no toxic vapors, Coughran said. Nevertheless, Cal-OSHA was conducting testing on the vessel later.
Rescue teams initially tried to reach the injured men through the side of the tank, but the thick walls and extensive piping made that impossible, Coughran told Bakersfield Now.
The responders then worked to reach the workers through an 18-inch opening in the top of the 10-foot diameter vessel, using a so-called “high point” rescue.
“Basically, we have a tripod with a rope, and we send a firefighter down in the tank,” Coughran told the newspaper. “The firefighter puts a rescue harness on the patient; we pull the patient out of the tank.”
When the firefighter reached Snelson, he was not breathing and had no pulse.